The WWDC 2010 Keynote: Great Product, Bad PR

by Josh Rubenoff Jun 11, 2010

When Steve Jobs gave his keynote speech at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference on Monday, he had more on his mind than introducing the latest iPhone. As you may be aware, Apple has encountered a bit of a backlash in recent months, for issues ranging from the closed App Store marketplace to the deliberate exclusion of Flash on iOS. For a company that's usually considered a genius in PR, Apple did a surprisingly mediocre job at defending its business decisions, even when it was in the right.

But let's start with when it was in the wrong: the slide where Steve Jobs detailed the three ways an app could be rejected from the App Store. Either the app doesn't do what is advertised, it utilizes private and undocumented APIs that could change without warning and break the app, or the app crashes.

On first glance, the slide seems straightforward enough to eliminate most criticism regarding App Store policies. Problem is, it's also a lie. Apple gave the impression that these are the only rules that bar an app from being approved, but they omitted a few that Jobs himself clearly still stands by, like rejecting any apps with sexually explicit material. Regardless of whether or not you agree that pornographic content shouldn't be allowed on the App Store, the exclusion of this rule on the slide makes Apple seem unnecessarily devious and secretive.

And it's for basically no reason! See, Apple has this completely separate platform it supports—the open Web. HTML5 and CSS3 allow developers to create full-featured applications for the browser without requiring a corporation's approval for mass distribution. While Apple could have used WWDC as an opportunity to promote Web apps, silence many of the anti-curated-marketplace critics, while steering the media conversation away from its potentially anticompetitive behavior, Jobs instead decided to focus on the App Store and the native programs inside it.

Ironically, Google announced its Chrome Web Store mere weeks ago at its I/O developer conference, showcasing rich all-HTML5 apps like Sports Illustrated and Lego Star Wars to demonstrate the power of the platform. Apple's devices offer the exact same functionality, yet Jobs instead decided to focus most of his presentation hyping what's been a large source of the Apple backlash.

Speaking of open platforms, I was glad to hear that FaceTime would be released as an open standard, available for other companies to use and incorporate into their own phones and VoIP software. So I was a little perplexed to see this column from Newsweek's Dan Lyons (also known as Fake Steve Jobs) later that Monday afternoon:

Today’s Apple event marks an important tipping point—it marks the point where Android starts to surge past Apple the way Windows surged past Apple in personal computers back in the 1990s. Moreover, I also believe that Jobs knows this, and doesn’t care. I think he’d rather have a small share of the market where he can exert complete control and create beautiful products that look exactly the way he wants them to look. Thus we have the new iPhone 4, which will cost a little more but will have pretty icons, pretty ads, and a cool video chat feature that only works if the person you’re talking to has the same Apple phone that you do. If you want to buy into Apple’s world, and you can deal with AT&T as your carrier, you’ll probably be very happy.

I mean, that really says it all, doesn't it?! It's true that you'll only be able to use FaceTime with other iPhone 4s at launch, but there's nothing to stop, say, Skype from incorporating it into its software by July. But if reporters are leaving even this year's WWDC with the takeaway that Apple's an insane control freak obsessed with closed systems at all costs, the media might not be entirely at fault. Apple's ineffective messaging should also take some of the blame.


  • “ marks the point where Android starts to surge past Apple…”

    Except this is not true, multiple articles has refuted this since it was posted, Android has about 1/3 the market share of the iPhone. Quoting a hit whore like Dan Lyons doesn’t make you look good either.

    Babblefish had this to say on Jun 11, 2010 Posts: 7
  • “I mean, that really says it all, doesn’t it?!”

    Seems like you have a double standard when it comess to lying. That quote leaves out the most important thing; how Apple products “work”!

    Steve W had this to say on Jun 11, 2010 Posts: 10
  • Um, did you listen to the keynote at all?

    Mr. Jobs clearly stated, more than once, that these were the top 3 reasons that apps were rejected.  Not that they were the only ones.

    Also, to call Daniel Lyons a reporter without massive caveats is kind of a joke.  He didn’t leave WWDC with this impression of Apple, he went in with it (if he went to WWDC at all) and there’s absolutely nothing in the universe that would have changed his mind.

    I think the biggest two messages that one could take away from the WWDC keynote, were first, the incredibly warm welcome that Mr. Jobs had at the beginning of the keynote and, second, the fact that Apple has passed $1 billion pack to app developers.  This is a market (the iPhone app market) that simply didn’t exist two years ago.  And the development community as a whole is thrilled to have it—regardless of what the blogosphere writes about it.



    reinharden had this to say on Jun 12, 2010 Posts: 7
  • Very wrong to call Apple a liar when they clearly stated that they were the top 3 reasons.

    An apology is required!!!

    Parky had this to say on Jun 13, 2010 Posts: 51
  • > “Apple gave the impression that these are the only rules that bar an app from being approved”

    Did you actually watch the keynote???? The only way you could get that impression is either you can’t hear or understand English. Otherwise it was extremely clear there were other reasons for rejecting an app.

    S_evans had this to say on Jun 13, 2010 Posts: 1
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