Response to Unanswered App Store Questions

I read an article this morning highlighting some very peculiar questions regarding how developers interact with customers via the iPhone/iPod Touch App store. I read all of them and the answers seemed so clear that I don’t know why Apple hasn’t answered them officially. Perhaps they will in the next two weeks, or there are some people at EA who might know already. Most likely, Apple hasn’t even thought of this stuff yet and they’ll answer it with the launch of the store. It’s all liquid folks, that’s the beauty of software and its policies. Apple wants to make the store an overnight success, and a long standing platform for the future (more on this next).

What exactly does Fairplay for apps mean?

It means the end of this concept where end users put in license keys, publishers track users in a ridiculous database where customers come back and upgrade but can’t log in, so they create a new account, and now the publishers think they have more customers than they really do. It means that Apple is trying to make it easy for developers to reduce their code and let Apple handle piracy. For better or worse, Fairplay does a good job at what its designed to do. It makes sense for Apple to DRM apps just like any other content from iTMS. Now perhaps an app doesn’t need DRM because its free, or a publisher just doesn’t like Fairplay. Well either case is invalid becasue 1) users would just redownload if needed and 2) Apple isn’t the platform an anti-Fairplay publisher really wants to develop. No one is saying apps are tied to one device, and Fairplay is designed with that in mind. I truly doubt based on my knowledge that a device, a computer, or some other ‘thing’ is any different that the other ‘thing’ in Fairplay’s code.

How will developers get customer information?

Through a developer publishing portal. Think about it. Then again, is it really the developer’s information or is it Apple’s?

How will support be handled?

Sure no one knows an app better than the guy who wrote it and the support team in India. See above.

What about trials?

See above the above. For most, I expect there will be a trial download and a licensed download, perhaps one with Fairplay applied and one without.

How will refunds be handled?

I get my refunds and purchases all through a merchant payment gateway, and most of them seem to work with the internets. Let Apple deal with most cases, that would explain a 30% cut in what is sold. I think for special cases, developers could issue credits to customers through their account. Maybe the customer won’t come back and they use their credit elsewhere. Do a better job then and don’t get too upset if all customers aren’t pleased.

How do we give out review copies?

These are sort of like refunds right? Just a refund before the sale actually happens. So why couldn’t a developer issue iTMS credits via their publisher portal? I don’t think Apple will generate the full infrastructure/interfaces right away that do this. Frankly the trend I’ve seen with their efforts have been more rapid releases than in the past. So sit tight, because Apple wants to hear people complain so they can get what the majority want and what Apple can feasibly provide.

What about other pricing concerns?

I believe publishers can price apps at whatever they choose. If a new release is out, would it be feasible to promote it via offering a discount to everyone?

Here are some things I would like to know. The iTunes store currently has featured content on all parent and subpages (i.e. the home page and sublinks not pointing to direct media). How do Apps get categorized and who decides what gets this lucrative real estate? Can developers rely on a review system or is it going to be who gives Apple the biggest checks? What if I want to buy multiple copies because the publisher has developed a specific reason that this case would apply, perhaps most likely in an enterprise situation?

I do think that Apple will have a publisher portal where anyone wanting their app in the store can manage the information they need to for interacting with customers, promoting a product, or deliver new features. It’s very easy to think that the iPhone has version awareness and could check in with the app publisher just as most software update mechanisms work. Again, that’s the genius in the whole platform…its software, as liquid as the water that we drink.