Airfoil Speakers Touch might be back in the iTunes App Store, but it seems developer Rogue Amoeba and Apple still aren't seeing eye to eye on the circumstances that led to it being temporarily pulled last month. A user named Kevin Starbird sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook complaining of the takedown and received a response from none other than Phil Schiller — who has been known to step in when the App Store review process comes under fire.
"Apple never said that we would pull the rug out from anyone"
In his reply, which Apple confirmed to The Verge as legitimate, Schiller claims the story that Rogue Amoeba has told on its blog is "not accurately recounted." Specifically, he reiterates that the Airfoil app "added a feature that accessed encrypted AirPlay audio streams without using approved APIs or a proper license," thus violating iOS developer agreements. Schiller rejects the notion that Apple's motives were unscrupulous, adding that his company worked with Rogue Amoeba to ensure the software would return to the App Store. Unfortunately, that process involved the removal of Airfoil Speaker Touch's ability to receive AirPlay audio from other devices.
"There are no APIs, approved or otherwise, to enable the functionality Airfoil Speakers provided."
Schiller's email has already been refuted by the team at Rogue Amoeba, with product manager Paul Kafasis writing "there are no APIs, approved or otherwise, to enable the functionality Airfoil Speakers provided." The same applies to licensing, he says, since Apple has thus far only licensed the AirPlay reception protocol to hardware vendors, with no equivalent for software developers. According to Kafasis, the code in question was written internally, and though it circumvents AirPlay's multiple levels of encryption, he sees no problem with that. "Reverse engineering devices and protocols for the purpose of interoperability is a time-honored, and legally sound, tradition," he says. "Should we stop providing users with products that work together simply because other vendors dislike competition?"
Though the two sides may be in disagreement, this situation has been resolved for better or worse. We don't expect Apple to comment further on the matter with its attention now turned toward the thousands of developers headed to San Francisco for Monday's WWDC kickoff. Still, the Airfoil incident has been a perfectly timed reminder that the company could stand to improve its transparency efforts with that very crowd.
Both emails are provided below.
Dear Mr. Cook,
Apple recently pulled Rogue Amoeba's app "Speakers" (an app that allowed an iOS device to receive AirPlay audio directly from iTunes or another iOS device) from the iOS app store on no grounds other than it contained "content or behavior [you] believe is over the line" — an opaque explanation if there ever was one, especially since Rogue Amoeba has yet to be told which line they crossed.
As a consumer and regular patron of Apple's, this smells rotten to me. Specifically, it seems like you're worried about a hit to the sale of Airplay-licensed speakers and the Airport Express. I suggest, however, that there would be greater benefit to us all if you allowed innovative and rule-abiding developers to provide value and utility in the form of brilliant paid apps like Speakers, thus enhancing the overall value of the entire iOS ecosystem.
What you've done instead is damage your ecosystem (not to mention your credibility) by telling developers everywhere that, even if they've spent thousands developing a paid app that follows all of your rules, you will never hesitate to pull the rug out from under them if you feel it might hurt the sale of iPod accessories.
I'm deeply disappointed, but I'm willing to hear Apple's side of the story...
Thank you for your email and question about this application.
The story as I understand it is simple, and not accurately recounted on Rogue Amoeba’s website. Rogue Amoeba’s app added a feature that accessed encrypted AirPlay audio streams without using approved APIs or a proper license and in violation of Apple’s agreements. Apple asked Rogue Amoeba to update their app to remain in compliance with our terms and conditions.
Your assumptions as to Apple's motives and actions are simply not correct. We have an Airplay licensing program explicitly to assist companies in creating AirPlay capable products. Apple never said that we would pull the rug out from anyone, we in fact worked with this developer to ensure they update their app and remain on the App Store.