Yesterday was a big day for Apple. The company announced iOS 5 at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, and it said it had paid out $2.5 billion to developers for apps they've sold to iOS users.
Apple's lawyers also sent WIP a letter yesterday, asking that we cease and desist from using the term "App Store" in the title of the App Store Catalog and App Store Reports we provide for developers here on our site. Apple has trademarked the term "App Store" in the US and many other countries, and the letter says our use of the term "improperly suggests to U.S. consumers that numerous companies offer an APP STORE mobile download service, when in fact the term APP STORE refers exclusively to Apple's groundbreaking download service."
Apparently Steve Jobs hasn't gotten a similar letter, since even he uses the term generically to refer to any of what the lawyers suggest we call "mobile download services" or "application download services".
We provide the App Store Catalog and the App Store Report as resources for developers who want to succeed, to earn a living, and to have their work enjoyed by people around the world. It is a fact that the world of mobile app distribution is highly fragmented and that not every mobile phone user has an iOS device. This means there are a wide array of "application download services" out there that developers need to consider to widely distribute their apps, and the Catalog and Report have been very well received as a resource to help them do so. Despite Apple's attempts through trademark to create the impression that it's the only game in town, it's not. Developers need resources such as these, and they've been very warmly received. Perhaps that's part of the problem.
It's a bit ironic that just as Apple flashes that $2.5 billion payout figure -- one for which it should be applauded -- it's also taken several steps that many see as thwarting developers' success:
- Obsoleting several third-party apps by building their functionality into iOS 5
- Allegedly keeping apps out of the App Store if they compete too closely with Apple's own software
- Shutting down pay-per-install marketing systems
- Rejecting apps because they include a particular feature, then later adding that feature to the OS
- Squeezing developers and publishers with its in-app payment policies
And now it hits out at our attempts to support developers by helping them navigate the maze of distribution channels available to them -- including all the alternate channels outside of Apple's own (trademarked) App Store. Apple's repeated actions to wield control over its own ecosystem creates the impression that the developers in it live at Apple's behest; its attempt to control the generic term "app store" suggests that it's trying to extend that control beyond its own ecosystem as well.
So what are we going to do? We're not sure yet, but we are talking the matter over with our own lawyers. It's probably also worth pointing out that Apple's trademark of the term is being challenged both in the US and Europe by a number of companies. But regardless of the outcome, our services for developers and our mission to support them won't change, no matter what Apple and its lawyers try to force upon us. At our Muther! of all Hackathons event later this month, we were planning to have some sessions on app store submission and placement optimization strategies. If we refer to it "application download service submission strategies" will anybody know what we're talking about?