When Apple announced the iPhone SDK, I expressed my mistrust of the walled garden in no uncertain terms. The feedback was pretty overwhelmingly negative. Apple fans generally don’t like criticism, and my use of metonymy seemed to touch a particular nerve.

Personally, I wouldn’t build an iPhone application with your seed capital: I can’t see how anyone would base a business model on the inscrutable whims of the gnomes of Cupertino. And I’ve got to admit that I’ve slightly enjoyed the Schadenfreude of seeing the pain that developers have suffered at the hands of Apple’s opaque and arbitrary application vetting process, because I feel a bit vindicated. That may well make me a bad person, but I’ll live with it. I also hope that the outcry of disgruntled developers will make the concept of a single gatekeeper less palatable in future. I want to see the App Store model wither. No, that’s not true. I want the concept of one single exclusive App Store to die. I want this experiment in cut down computing to fail. Hard.

The last two days have brought another couple of examples of incomprehensible reasons for rejection, so here’s a list of things you can’t do in an iPhone application:

  1. Allow anyone to read books that are on the internet, because the internet contains porn (if badly bowdlerised Victorian translations of the Kama Sutra count as porn).
  2. Celebrate Israeli independence and/or whistle.
  3. Display the word ‘fuck’, even if it was typed in by the Apple tester himself or came from the internet
  4. Provide functionality that Apple thinks it owns, such as fetching podcasts or email.
  5. Interact with an application that could be used to download unlawful copies of copyrighted material
  6. Use a development framework that would allow you to write cross-platform phone applications.

Of course, one category that seems to suffer no such restrictions is that of the flatulence simulator.

Anyway, I expect irate responses to this piece as well. So let me make one thing clear: Apple can indeed legally do what it likes (more’s the pity). But, developers, if you choose to hitch your wagon to their horse, don’t complain where you’re led. I, for one, won’t have any sympathy for you.

I know that the iPhone is a lovely platform. I know that the development tools are very good (at least by the standards of mobile phone development). I know that having someone else handle charging and billing is convenient. But the fact that the yoke is padded in velvet doesn’t make it any less constricting. Whether to submit to it is your choice.

tl;dr: I told you so.