Apple has done it again.
Is it “make a lot of money”? Uh, probably. It never stops doing that (see Apple Q3 results announcement later today). No, in this instance the Macalope is talking about killing a fun app that people are enjoying because of arcane App Store rules designed to feed its endless maw of digital delights while also having some cake and eating that, too.
Sorry, Martin’s Mangled Metaphor Outlet was having a sale.
According to the developer, Apple will be pulling the app iDOS from the App Store due to violations of rule 89 stroke zed ampersand honk honk. (We’ll, uh, check that citation later.) What does iDOS do? It runs DOS on your iOS device, which means you can run Windows 3.1 as well as DOS-based games.
Neat, huh? Yeah. So, the Macalope has just one question for Apple:
Who is this hurting?
You can argue that this is in violation of the letter of the App Store rules. But the problem with that argument is the letter of the App Store rules is dumb. And rules can be changed. Rules should be changed if they can be made better.
John Gruber quipped that iDOS was:
Cited for violating rule 11.38, which prohibits excessive harmless nostalgic fun.
There is no security impact as the games run in an emulator. There’s no significant business impact to Apple as we’re talking about games that are 25 years or more old by now.
According to the developer, Apple says the app violates Guideline 2.5.2 because it:
…executes iDOS package and image files and allows iTunes File Sharing and Files support for importing games. Executing code can introduce or changes features or functionality of the app and allows for downloading of content without licensing.
But it executes them within the emulator which is sandboxed. If the app is an emulator (which it is) then the code executed within does not alter the functionality of the app in any way, any more than rolling five sixes changes the rules of Yahtzee. But if running executables is a problem regardless of them being in a sandboxed emulator, maybe make an allowance for people to run executables that date to the Clinton administration. Because c’mon.
The Macalope doesn’t have any old DOS games lying around. Oddly, he does actually have install disks for Windows 3.1, believe it or not.
Hey, he was young. Who among us has not experimented with graphical user interfaces bolted clumsily on top of a command-line operating system as a youth? We all make mistakes. You’re not my dad.
Lacking games, though, he wasn’t particularly interested in buying iDOS just to run Windows 3.1 again. If the Macalope wants to remember the early ‘90s he’ll queue up all those great Gin Blossoms songs by Toad the Wet Sprocket. But then Apple said it was going to pull the app and he rushed to his iPad and bought it.
Which is awkward, though, right? Sure, he showed support for the developer by paying the $4.99 for the app. But $1.50 of that went to Apple, the company banning the app from its platform. (Like the Macalope said, Apple never stops making money.) This is a real messed-up system of incentives.
ARRGH, APPLE, I’M SO MAD AT YOU! HERE’S $1.50!
Sure showed them.
Ultimately this isn’t a big deal. If you want to run old DOS games, you can do that on a Mac or any other desktop computer. Also, they’re old games. It’s not like it’s insulin we’re talking about (that situation, by the way, is monumentally messed up).
But it’s dumb. It’s unnecessary and it deprives people of joy. Apple has an annoying history of letting good apps get ground up in the gears of the App Store rules. It would be nice if the company would get out in front of these incidents and do the right thing instead.
[Programming note: The Macalope will be off next week.]