Apple Aggravates iPhone Partners Again

First, Apple ticked off some iPhone app developers. Now it's giving the boot to iPhone screen protector vendors.

In a scene in the 2004 movie Troy, a young virgin priestess professes her love for the god, Apollo. Achilles, played by Brad Pitt, replies, "I think you'll find the romance one-sided."

For a few of the Apple faithful, like Gerrard Dennis, CEO of The Simply Group, Achilles' words can sting without warning. The Simply Group's iPhone retail app for women's beach apparel was caught up in Apple's raid on smut in the App Store.

"I do understand [Apple's] motives," Dennis says, "although they applied them with the finesse of a club hammer!"

Only three months into the new year, a rejuvenated Apple has shown god-like indifference to its faithful followers, even dealing crushing blows to the businesses of unsuspecting iPhone software developers and Apple-related product vendors.

In February, Apple shunned Macworld Expo, then took some wind out of Macworld Expo's sails by staging its own announcement of the much-anticipated iPad just two weeks before the start of Macworld Expo.

When Apple launched its iPhone three years ago, industry watchers said the key to its success would be wooing apps developers. And they came to the new platform in droves, helping to make the iPhone one of the greatest tech stories ever told. Today, there are more than 140,000 iPhone apps.

But late last month Apple suddenly removed apps containing what it called sexual content. No forewarning. No explanation. No apologies. Never mind that Apple had already approved these apps. The raid also didn't include top branded apps, such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit app.

Apple didn't seem to care what happened to banned developers. Dennis' phone calls and emails, for instance, went unanswered. Dennis says that he even wondered if anyone from Apple actually took the time to evaluate apps or Apple just made a sweeping decision based on keywords.

The Simply Group was one of the lucky ones; its banned iPhone app magically reappeared on the App Store four days later. Yet other app developers wrote to me crying foul. On an Apple whim, they said, their businesses had been obliterated overnight.

Next to feel Apple's wrath: iPhone screen-protector vendors. Several vendors speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid conflict with Apple told Macworld that Apple will stop selling screen films for the iPhone, iPad and MacBook in its App Store and retail outlets. Apple did not explain the decision, they said.

To be fair, vendors told Macworld that screen protectors are returned at a higher rate than other products due to the difficultly of applying them without causing air bubbles. Power Support, a maker of iPhone screen protectors, did not return my calls.

The ban also includes iPhone cases with screen protectors, vendors said. "The move has left some case vendors scrambling to quickly repackage their products sans screen protection, so as not to lose their privileged place in Apple's stores," according to the Macworld story.

Screen and anti-glare films are popular among iPhone owners and have saved screens from scratches, including mine. Yet Apple apparently has decided that they aren't important anymore given more scratch-resistant screens of the latest iPhone models.

Like others, vendors that have built their businesses on screen protectors find themselves suddenly out of luck without any recourse. Apple's actions really do bear resemblance to the arrogance and apathy of the Greek gods.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at tkaneshige@cio.com. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

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