Shortly following the events at WWDC, Apple contacted developers Rob Fielding and Bastus Trump to let them know that their apps were getting pulled from the App Store. Both Cantor and Orphion have been on the App Store for over a year, but suddenly Apple in their infallible wisdom have decided that these apps are no longer fit for the general public. The specific reason for this is some dense technical shit that I only barely understand involving Private APIs; an issue that has existed in a grey area for developers. This area is so murky that Rob Fielding made sure that the very first version of Cantor (and all subsequent updates) explicitly stated to the Apple Review team that he used these APIs for finger-area sensing; in order to make sure that there would be no surprises and he wasn't sneaking anything past them.
Rob and Bastus are some pretty clever developers, and they have been pushing the envelope in terms of what we can do with our shiny iPads. Rob has been particularly instrumental in designing instruments that push MIDI to the very edge in his work with Jordan Rudess on GeoSynth. Cantor was an evolution of that design, including finger-area sensing for greater expression. As with Orphion, when you're playing an instrument on a glass screen you need all the help you can get to make your play expressive.
When Apple approved Cantor back in May of last year, Rob breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that his hard work would get out to users. He even made the app free on a couple of occasions to make sure that it did, and left the app completely free since November.
Then out of the blue, and just after Apple started off their WWDC keynote sucking up to developers for a half-an-hour, they gave Rob and Bastus the call. This casual reversal on what had already been approved will have a chilling effect on the developer community: Don't push the boundaries, or Apple can and will yank your income.
Artist Rendering: WWDC 2013 Keynote of the Apple App Ecology
The Apple App Ecology is a fragile one. Developers invest their time in making iPad apps, but they are complicit in their own potential demise. They know full well as they enter Apple's domain that at any time, and without any meaningful appeals process, Apple can just fuck everything up. They accept this frailty because they know that a majority of Apple's users have surgically graphted their mouths to Apple's ass, and so they buy into Apple's own ass kissing at WWDC.
This is not a conducive environment for the kind of bleeding-edge music technology and experimentation that we have come to enjoy from apps. Another grey area for apps is anything that breaks out of the "sandbox" that Apple insists all apps run in. This is exactly what Audiobus does when it sends audio from one app to another. It took them a year to make Audiobus, and the whole time they were in a state of limbo; unable to get a definitive answer on whether or not their effort would ever see the light of day on the App Store. They took that pressure and stress on themselves, but now Apple is retroactively reversing their decisions for previously approved apps. In the time since Orphion's release in January 2012 there have been 7 updates. Bastus continued to develop that app under the impression that it would pay off. Then a call out of nowhere and that ends, all of his efforts were wasted and his users are left high and dry.
I've given up on Android offering any meaningful competition for Apple in the music app space, and Windows RT/8 was dead on arrival, so this is the situation we're all stuck with. Developers are in an even worse position. Most of these guys are doing this in their spare time, whatever that means, but increasingly developers are hoping to make music apps full-time. That's part of the promise from Apple when they drone on endlessly about how many credit cards they have on iTunes accounts, or how much money they've paid out to developers in the last year. That's all a nice public front, but the private phone calls indicate that developers either play it safe, or risk suddenly losing an income they hope to depend on.
Some have started a petition to get Apple to reverse their decision, but I think that is naive. Apple isn't going to do that, because Apple doesn't have to do that. When they were a scrappy underdog 15 years ago they needed zealous fans to support them. Now they are second only to Exxon, and it is time to start treating them like the behemoth mega-corporation they are when they squash smaller companies clinging to them and their platform. Apple will not end this casual tyranny until their users start to hold them accountable. As long as you treat Apple like they can do no wrong, then they will go on acting like that.