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9/14/14: Sold 500 edu copies of Air Display 2. 4/25/16: All 500 refunded (twitter.com)
291 points by zdw on May 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

In isolation, each of Apple's poor actions towards developers can be explained away. But in aggregate the collective paper cuts wear down a lot of the goodwill that Apple has with developers. There's a lot of hope riding on this WWDC turning stuff around, but I'm not too hopeful.

I tried to convince a non-developer (and Apple lover) about this a few months ago but got nowhere. Developers are like bellwethers: if they hate you, even if you're successful now, your product/service is doomed.

Salesforce -- successful business, hated by every programmer who has ever touched it.

I don't mind it. With SF you've got to remember they've been updating and extending the same live platform for over ten years. It's amazing that it's as cohesive as it is.

My wife, who is a sales director, loves SalesForce. Maybe programmers aren't their target market?

Nope, but they are required if you want to do anything on it that's custom. And Apex as a platform is a nightmare to work with.

For all their revenue, they almost never turned a profit. They are popular but I wouldn't call it successful in business sense.

I can attribute this one to developers having to interact with sales force on behalf of their bosses. Hard to refuse usin a technology if your boss tells you you need to support it.


I happen to be an HNer that has been on the Oracle developer list since the late 90's.

I am yet to see a FOSS SQL database to match Oracle's tooling for database programming. The only ones I had similar good experience are with Microsoft and Informix (before it was acquired by IBM) databases.

Can you briefly describe some of that tooling?

The ones I care about:

- The capabilities of PL/SQL and TransactSQL, FOSS databases don't have as feature rich programming language for stored procedures.

- Ability to mix relation, object oriented and unstructured data modeling

- The SQL features and extensions

- Distributed transactions across multiple databases across clusters

- The SQL Developer IDE or integration with Visual Studio, without relying on third parties

My General experence is stored procedures and even transactions scale really poorly. I have seen several ex-oracle projects and it really only seems to work well for hospitals and other organizations that don't grow. Or banks which have relativly few transactions per day.

Ed: Or the old Cognos Big Data (No Users).

Any thoughts?

I've always felt that 99% of the people worried about database scaling didn't actually have a DB scaling problem.

I've seen billion dollar double-digit growth rate e-commerce companies run their transactional systems on a single commodity DB server (technically 2 in a failover configuration).

Successful social media companies have legitimate scaling concerns. Most every e-commerce company under $5BB/year does not. At least 10x (and probably 100x) as many architects believe they have a scaling problem as actually do, IMO.

> transactions scale really poorly

Please be more specific about 'scaling' numbers!

> Or banks which have relativly few transactions per day.


"Banking apps were used 10.5m times a day across the country in March, eclipsing the 9.6m daily log-ins to internet banking services"

I have been involved in some telecommunications and health care projects in a couple of Fortune 500, using Informix, Oracle and SQL Server backends, which had more GB on their databases than most big data projects I see being tossed around in big data startups.

Of course it is a personal experience and I cannot generalize, but on those projects we had all the scale we needed.

All the issues we had, the DBAs could sort them out after checking the query optimizers and fine tune the model and respective indexes.

Oracle runs on so many platforms, that essentially once you fire up a command line interface or otherwise give administration commands to it, it is its own OS.

After installation (provided you don't run out of disk space), you can set it up and maintain it without (hardly) ever having to run an OS command.

As a result, just about everything, including statistics to be gathered, users, etc. is just another table you can query via SQL or set using Oracle commands.

Same here. Once you get over the hump of treating it as a database and start using it as a platform, nothing can touch Oracle. But most people, even most long-term Oracle customers deeply invested in it, barely scratch the surface

Nobody has the budget for licensing the more advanced bits. One of the tragedies of the computing world is how many great features remain locked to a really small subset of clients, because they're only available in the top-tier, more-money-than-god, if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it edition

Nobody? I think what you'll actually find is no-one pays list price...

oh I wish some one can tell me how to get Sql Server Enterprise license at a price of standard i am paying now...

You know, Oracle is not so bad for developers if you can get their attention. Basically, if you pay enough, or promise to pay enough (in a pre-sales track), you get treated well.

Then again, there is PL/SQL. If any technology ever demonstrated a casual but deep hatred of the developers that must endure it, it is that one.

Does Apple have goodwill with developers? I can't think of the last time that would have been the case.

What are the rumors? I'd consider myself anti-apple, but it still saddens me that they aren't doing cool stuff anymore.

It's long overdue that Apple allows installing software without their approval on iOS devices. It's appalling that there is no alternative to the App Store. The imbalance of power between developers and Apple is unacceptable.

It doesn't look like Apple will change without outside pressure; the time is now ready for government regulation. I really hope that the EU takes on this problem, and forces Apple to allow competing stores, just like they required Microsoft to let users choose alternative browsers.

Apple has only 25% (and I think that's rounding it up a lot) of marketshare in Europe. It is by no mean a dominant force like Microsoft was, not by a long shot. So it isn't clear under which anti trust rule you would force anything.

It is not because you make a lot of money with less than 1/3 of a market, that you should be forced in anything. That doesn't make any sense.

What I don't understand - or it should be that having anti-apple feelings has an influence in somebody's judgement - that people seem to be confused over this.

25% marketshare defined how? You're probably going by devices sold, but that paints a limited picture of how much of the smartphone economy Apple possesses (which is what market share tries to define.) Then you need to look at more things: 1) sales revenue, 2) services revenue and 3) devices in use at any one time.

Which all skews favourably to iOS.

- iPhones last longer in the wild, higher resale value and bigger second hand market, on average. That means over time, devices-in-use marketshare for iOS exceeds the new-device-sales share. (3) You can see this in e.g. web traffic from iOS/Android devices, it's much closer to 40%/60%

- iPhones are more expensive and more profitable, such that the sales revenue split between Apple/Android phones is much more favourable than the split of units sold. (1)

- Further, and we've also seen numbers that the ARPU on iOS is 4x that of Android, meaning app store sales share is much more favourably than 25% for iOS. (2)

We've probably all seen the news reporting on Apple commanding 90 or 95% of the market's profits. [0] Its real market share, which is not just device units sold, is much more significant than 25%. Is it as dominant as Windows? Surely not, I agree with you there, but you're downplaying them a bit too much. I don't see grounds for an anti trust appeal though.

[0] http://www.wsj.com/articles/apples-share-of-smartphone-indus...

I believe that traditional definition of market share doesn't look at any of the evidence you put forth here. And regulators are going to continue to use their traditional definition.

> the time is now ready for government regulation


Don't like it as a consumer? Don't buy an iPhone.

Don't like it as a producer? Don't build apps for it.

Nothing is making you use iOS or Apple devices.

Well, don't like Internet Explorer non standards? Don't use IE, use another browser.

> It's appalling that there is no alternative to the App Store.

Apple’s vision from day 1 of the iPhone was that the Web was the alternative. Its lacking device APIs is where outrage resides.

I'm still genuinely confused as to why Apple hasn't been slammed with antitrust on multiple fronts. You can ignore the whole App Store fiasco and still come up with several other anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices: as a paying Winamp customer, I can't access the iPhone. This isn't a silly little issue like a browser and they get away with it consistently.

Apple is not colluding with other companies to be anti-competitive so that aspect of antitrust law doesn't apply. Apple doesn't have a monopoly in the phone market so laws about abusing a monopolistic position doesn't apply. Anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices are not inherently illegal (they're arguably inherent to capitalism), they're only potentially illegal when practiced by a business that's potentially a monopoly. It's like you're complaining that Apple has a "monopoly" on deciding what's sold in their store. Every store has that right.

> as a paying Winamp customer, I can't access the iPhone

I don't know what this means. Has a law been broken when a program written for OS X on an x86 processor can't run on an Android phone with an ARM processor?

> as a paying Winamp customer, I can't access the iPhone

Microsoft was accused of anti-competitive behaviour by EU for bundling IE with Windows. Not only is iTunes bundled with iPhone, but alternatives are locked out (unlike IE - which was always the Chrome download app).

But Microsoft could only be anti-competitive because they had an effective monopoly on the PC market. If you don't like iOS's policies, go buy an Android.

There are other music-playing apps in the iTunes store so there are alternatives to iOS's Music app but I'm not familiar with the parameters of what Apple does and does not allow.

I don't like many of Apple's iTunes Store policies, I just don't see how they could be called illegal.

> go buy an Android.

Exactly as I did. That doesn't stop me from sympathising with iPhone users. iTunes is a horrific piece of software, virtually every alternative is better.

Unlike the old railroad companies that needed huge capital investments to set up national railroad networks, anyone with a couple million could cobble together a PoC of some phones. So being the biggest phone seller doesn't turn them into some untouchably large company. There's a ton of companies trying to release their own phones; even Ubuntu has their own line[1].

The only industry in all of computing where antitrust seems to me to be directly applicable to a business - only considering itself - is owning and running fabrication plants. I think they cost something like $1 billion to set up. Maybe Comcast or AT&T or similar could also count with their expensive communications infrastructure, and if we didn't otherwise have regulation for those industries.

Of course, Apple colluding with Google to fix the store cut would also count, as would many other similar examples. But those involve multiple companies conspiring together, not a single one like you've mentioned.

[1] http://www.ubuntu.com/phone/devices

Not likely to happen, as unlike Microsoft, Apple makes and sell the whole widget.

The headline took so long to parse. Middle-endian dates remain very confusing to everyone outside the USA.

I use YYYY/MM/DD every where I can. My pointless, resolute insurrection to drag USA's calendaring into the 3rd millennium.

Stick with ISO 8601 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601): 2016-05-01.

Yes. It's unambiguous to everyone, and it sorts correctly without special treatment.

I couldn't agree more. It can be extremely confusing to parse unfamiliar date formats and iso 8601 is the only date format that is instantly understandable.

Free date sorting too!

Till the year 10000

Better put that in my reminders...

hey, i'm with you. I date my things YYYYMMDD

Very hard actually. For me it takes an effort to understand US dates. On the other hand DMY and YMD feel completely natural.

YMD will feel natural to any programmer so that doesn't count, programmers like order :)

How do you verbally tell someone the date in conversation?

September 14th 2014 or 14th of September 2014 or simply 14 September 2014? Being in the US, the latter two feel long or awkward for me.

Writing the date how we say it makes "sense" so I'm guessing outside the US dates are spoken differently?

you are right probably YMD won't feel natural unless you are a programmer.

We say 14th September 2014. The most natural thing to you is the way you'd say your birth date out loud (regardless of language).

Yes, they are.

Great illustration of Conway's law.

Blame the English language. "September 14th, 2014" is easier to say than "the 14th of September, 2014".

The American style date reflects the English language, which is why it feels more natural to many of us native speakers.

In the UK "September 14th 2016" sounds totally unnatural and entirely weird. If you said it at school, the teachers would correct you.

The "14th of September 2016" form is what 95% of English people would default to I reckon. Even Shakespeare used this form: "beware the ides of March" and not "beware the March ides"

Of course no one would say "2016 September 14th" but hey that is another discussoon.

"14th of September" would be the more common spoken form in the UK, and certainly sounds more natural to me.

Australian here, "14th of September" sounds natural and would be what was taught and used here in general conversation.

I wish people would just spell out month names and use 4 digit years. Then you can use any order and it stays unambiguous.

Is this really that difficult? I was born and raised in the US but have been traveling around the world for almost the last year and it gets easy REALLY fast to switch between them, especially when one of the interpretations is clearly incompatible (like in this case where there's no 14th month). I've had probably more than a 100 lodging and train and flight bookings and I've yet to find it confusing.

Though I do think that it's stupid that we use middle endian dates. My habit has become to just put the unambiguous fullyear-month-day.

I imagine it's due to the lack of context. If you see the date 11/2/12, what date is it? If I'm in America, I assume that it's M/D/Y, making it November 2, 2012. If I'm not in America, then I assume it's D/M/Y, making it February 11, 2012.

But if I'm on the internet, I have no fricking clue.

I agree on the unambiguous version - as a side effect, it sorts very nicely.

And if you're the genius somewhere in the neighboring thread using YY/MM/DD, it's February 12, 2011.

Heuristically, "if it has slashes, it's USian mm/dd/yy, if it has dots, it's European dd.mm.yy, if it has dashes, it's ISOish yy-mm-dd, YMMV."

I can switch between them without issue, but (especially online) you don't always have the context needed to decide which to use. If I come across, say, "01/05/2016", unless I know the country of origin for the site, I have no idea if that is 2016 May 1 or 2016 Jan 5.

Good lord, seriously?!

How is this legal? Surely after more than a full fiscal year, nobody could reasonably expect a refund? Although I suppose some consumer protection laws require many-year warranties. Is that comparable?

It's also against the t&c included in the Apple developer agreement.


This is crazy. I'm not in the App Store, how does this kind of refund even work? Surely the money had already been transferred to the developer's bank account.

Does Apple bill the developer for the value of the refund? Charge their credit card? Do they withhold future sales for that value?

From the follow-up comments, it sounds like it was simply deducted from his current month sales revenue.

Actually, I imagine this is just an oversight, and he's been caught in-between some automated cracks. If he raises the issue with Apple and it isn't resolved immediately, then it's time to grumble.

"If he raises the issue with Apple and it isn't resolved immediately, then it's time to grumble."

Like the developer says in his own Tweets: for that, there would have to be an open channel between developers and Apple. There isn't, developers don't get to discuss with the Apple App Store representatives, it's a one way dialog in which they receive some automated or if they are lucky, semi-automated response from the App Store and that's it.

Generally any reasonably sized developer has an Apple assigned dev relation contact.

Avatron is reasonably sized and notable developer. That's what makes this whole incident interesting.

Ok, but this developer states in his tweets that's not his case at least.

As a former Apple employee, surely he can find someone to help him make the connection.

Are you beginning to see the problem here? A “normal” developer is screwed. You need to be pretty large (“reasonably sized”) and have good contacts at Apple (which is nowhere near as easy as you think it is, and basically impossible for most non-US developers) to even have a chance to have such things fixed.

So, the only recourse against Apple's missteps is "well if you're in the old boys' club, you might be in luck"? But this is Apple, so it's somehow okay. Magic.

Hey - if you don't mind, could you share your contact details? I have a question.

Interestingly, the software is not very highly regarded:



I wonder if apple decided to make a special case, and do a blanket refund?

Which is totally fair, if the refund is done on the allotted time (90 days)

It might have been amazing / done well two years ago. Two years is an aweful long time in App Store land.

"Well sharecropper, if you don't like working my land, go to somewhere else."

Actually, it's worse: sharecroppers really good go plant cotton somewhere else. But if you want to write iOS apps, you have the deal with Apple.

Is there a refund time limit in the store ToS? A year and a half or so seems excessively long for anything, let alone hardware.

This is absolutely appalling. Apple cannot possibly think they are in the right here, especially due to their own ToS. It seems this dude lives in the US, doesn't he have a legal case against Apple for theft?

I'd suggest legal action, but unless a system like the UK small claims court is available this would probably cost more than could be recovered.

Wouldn't taking Apple to small claims court be a very fast way to get you booted out the App Store entirely? I don't think those 500 copies would ever be worth that.

Hmm, hadn't considered that; that drives home how unequal the system is and that income from the Apple store is entirely at the whim of Apple.

retaliation for valid legal complaint is also illegal, and would put Apple in tons of trouble in EU, no idea about US.

I'd argue this is why you should distribute your app on the App Store, but don't rely on Apple to handle the payments. Make your app free, with a payment to your site directly, where you then provide an activation code or password, etc, to run the free iOS app. One additional perk is that you don't give Apple 30% when you do this.

For the App Store to approve your app, you provide a test username/password or authentication code in the notes to the reviewer. After the app is approved, you can then deactivate that test account.

This requires more development overhead from the developer, certainly. But the extra 30% you get in revenue and the comfort of being solely in control of your payment process can be worth it.

There are a few apps that do this, but not many.

If you're big enough that the 30% makes a difference, you're not going to want to risk having your app banned by flagrantly violating the ToS. And even if you ignore that, the extra friction you're going to cause users is going to dwarf that 30% fee.

I've literally spent hundreds of dollars on apps, and generally don't mind forking out $3 or $4 for something I think might be useful. However the probability of me giving some app that's violating the app-store policies my credit-card details is pretty close to zero. I might consider paypal (which I don't even have the details of on my phone), but if there's any equivalent app, I sure as hell will just buy it through the app store.

This is also prohibited by the app store TOS.

The terms of service prevent you from soliciting payment via an outside source within your app. But I don't think there's anything against what I described, so long as you don't link to your site for payment. Is this not the case?

It's ridiculous to be a slave of Apples good will for years without knowing when and how much revenue they might just take away from you again without even giving a reason. What if you invested it elsewhere a long time ago and your business is not doing that well anymore ?

I don't really see how different it is from a normal retailer situation. If you have a small store, sell someone a fridge, then 6 months later go under, and the fridge breaks down and can't be repaired in 11 months, the customer is still within the rights to ask you for a full refund(at least in the EU). It doesn't matter if you are doing well or not - as a business, you should plan for these situations.

The problem here is, that I don't think Apple says anywhere that they can issue refunds for your products 18(!!!!) months after purchase! normal refund time is 90 days.

yeah the problem is not the existence of refunds, the problem is the timeframe which is highly unreasonable for a $10 application. 3-6 months okay, but almost 2 years ?

To be clear, he knows exactly that it's those 500 sold on 9/14/14, right?

A thought here--suppose the original 500 sales turned out to somehow be a fraudulent transaction. In that case Apple would undo it no matter how long it had been.


tl;dr (I think)

Dave Howells appears to run Avatron.com (looks like a one man shop?). It sells "Air Display", a screen sharing app for iOS / android.

It seems he got a windfall of sales a year ago, and now has had that windfall refunded.

He had no idea where the good fortune came from, and he has again no idea where the bad fortune comes from (Aplle does not release purchaser details to the app maker)

Dave Howells assumption on Twitter is that his app was bundled with iPads for a school, that then returned everything.

His quote from the Twitter thread here is revealing :

"Basically Apple let them use my app for free for two whole school years without even asking my permission."

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding here - a few are

- the valid refund period on the App Store does seem excessive. That's nearly 18 mths

- don't get upset at not knowing where bad fortune comes from if you don't know where the good comes from too

- Apple should pass on some (anonymised?) feedback as to why the app was refunded.

- this is all made worse by it being 500 at once.

- but overall don't complain too much - Apple has built a global platform for small developers to sell onto that simply would not exist without Apple. It's incredible and also worrying but it's a ride you are along for, not a market as we know it.

No? The App Store terms specify that developers are on the hook for refunds for 90 days.

Bottom line is that this could've just been a billing error from the outset that it took Apple two years to correct. Howells is making the assumption it was a school district with no evidence whatsoever. If it was Apple's policy to refund school district 3rd party app purchases regardless of time, we would be hearing this complaint constantly, not just from this one guy.

> Howells is making the assumption it was a school district with no evidence whatsoever.

You are making an assumption that he has no evidence with no evidence whatsoever.

Apple provides educational discounts (if you allow it in your app’s iTC settings). He could almost certainly tell the purchase was from a school simply by dividing the reported revenue by the number of sold copies and comparing it with their regular price in the (also visible in the report) country.

the problem is that apple is not giving any information whatsoever.

Problem is what if he bought a new house in the mean time based on this billing error. He could end up bankrupt because of this billing error.

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