Apple's Latest F-You To iPhone Developers

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If you don’t have time to read Instapaper creator Marco Arment’s excellent essay about Apple’s profitable-but-strained relationship with iPhone developers, we’d like to highlight one part.

Apple (AAPL) appears to be so scared about how its iPhone developers will behave in an open forum that it completely ditched the Q&A portion after a session on iPhone app publishing at last week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference.

Arment: The session itself blew through its lightweight examples quickly, ending 45 minutes early. The majority of the audience was clearly there for the Q&A. As people lined up at the microphones around the room, the presenter abruptly showed a simple slide with only “WWDC” in plain lettering, thanked us for coming, and bolted off the stage. The Apple engineers, usually staying around the stage for one-on-one questions, were gone. The lights came up instantly, and it was the only session that didn’t end in music. The audience was stunned.

It was a giant middle finger to iPhone developers. And that’s the closing impression that Apple gave us for WWDC. Clearly, they had absolutely no interest in fielding even a single question from the topic that we have the most questions about.

This went far beyond reluctant tolerance. It’s hard to interpret it as anything else except blatant hostility. We could probably have a more open discussion with Kim Jong-il about North Korea’s nuclear policy.

Daring Fireball writer John Gruber seems to support Arment’s sense of surprise, noting that the only other times he’s seen Apple skip the Q&A at WWDC is when time ran out after a session. But this particular session ended very early. “The App Store team simply knew what the questions were going to be like and were unwilling to face them,” Gruber writes.

As we’ve said all along, this is Apple’s app store, and it can do whatever it wants with it. Further, it’s Apple’s developers conference, so it can do whatever it wants there, too. The App Store is a huge hit for Apple and for developers, a lot of people are making a lot of money, etc.

But it’s a shame to see that the relationship between Apple and its iPhone developers — now more than a year after many started writing apps for the iPhone — is still so uniquely screwed. For a company that puts so much pride in its gadgets, it’s unfortunate that it’s so neglectful toward the people who help make Apple products unique.

Apple is still soundly atop the smartphone industry, platform-wise, so it doesn’t have an immediate need to fear that turned-off developers will run for greener pastures. But the competition is getting closer, and now would be high time for Steve Jobs to prioritise his company’s relationship with iPhone developers.

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