Thursday, November 11, 2010

One developer's app approval tale; newspapers should get inspired by the app ideas of independent developers

The Economy for iPad is the kind of app that should have been released by a media company. The app gathers up the latest financial information about housing, employment, manufacturing and other topics and displays it in a simple to use tablet application.
Developed by a self-described "bootstrapped startup company based in Seattle", Cascade Software Corporation, the new $2.99 has grabbed a bit of attention because of the developer's interesting experiences trying to get his app approved by Apple.

Ram Arumugam submitted his app to Apple and learned that it had been rejected because it used a non-public API in order to resolve a  problem making the iPad's keyboard disappear after the user was done typing. This use of private code is a no-no with Apple.

"Apple’s review team did a great job in following up with me (email and phone calls) and we discussed the matter in detail," Arumugam wrote on the Cascade Software website. "However, I couldn’t find out the approximate timeframe within which the app-review-board might make their Yes/No decision on the appeal. The appeal seemed to present a difficult problem."

So Arumugam e-mailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and as Jobs sometimes does, he responded back to Arumugam -- this time with a call.

"A couple of hours after I sent the email, I was at a noisy soccer (for kids) arena when I heard my iPhone ring. The caller-id, the caller saying “Ram, this is Steve” and that he was calling from Apple did suggest that it could really be Steve Jobs," Arumugam said.

In the end, Jobs was firm in explaining the company's position, and the developer was forced to resubmit he app without the unauthorized code. Cute story.

My interest in the app, though, is both as a consumer and as a media person. What strikes me about this app is that it does something that any entrepreneurial publishing company could have done: it takes information that is publicly available and packages it together in a new and useful way.

When I look at newspaper tablet editions that simply bring in the latest content from RSS feeds I am frustrated that the newspaper digital people are so unimaginative. Newspaper readers used to get full stock tables, box scores and standings. Much of this information has been eliminated from the print products because of the cost of print production. Why not use this for your tablet editions?