Update: Rogue Amoeba replied to Phil Schiller’s email in a response published on its website. The full response is below.
Following Apple’s decision to pull Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil Speakers Touch app for a feature allowing iOS devices to stream to one another over AirPlay, Apple explained the app was removed for the feature’s use of non-public APIs. It currently only allows Apple TV and certain third-parties such as speaker manufacturers to access the AirPlay streaming protocol. The app was earlier this week allowed back into the App Store without the iOS-to-iOS streaming feature, but today we get word from Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller who explained in an email the reason behind removing the app.
An email to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook from concerned consumer Kevin Starbird regarding the app’s removal was met with a direct email response from Schiller. 9to5Mac independently confirmed the emails are authentic. Here is Kevin’s full email addressed to Cook followed by Schiller’s response:
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…
Phil Schiller’s response is below:
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.
Rogue Amoeba’s response to Phil:
In response to the claim that this feature was made “without using approved APIs”
There are no APIs, approved or otherwise, to enable the functionality Airfoil Speakers Touch provided. All the code used to receive AirPlay-compatible audio was written internally by Rogue Amoeba.
In response to the claim that we did this “without a proper license”
Likewise, there exists no “proper license” to provide the functionality Airfoil Speakers Touch offered. While Apple licenses the ability for hardware manufacturers to play AirPlay audio, there is no such licensing program for software. When we inquired as to the possibility of this type of licensing being available for software manufacturers in the future, we were informed that it was unlikely.
In response to the claim that this was “in violation of Apple’s agreements”
As we wrote previously, Apple has told us there is no specific rule or provision that Airfoil Speakers Touch violated, beyond simply being something that Apple does not wish to have in the store. We steadfastly stand by our statement that Airfoil Speakers Touch violated no part of our agreements with Apple.
Finally, Mr. Schiller states that we accessed “encrypted AirPlay audio streams”, and seems to imply that this is somehow inappropriate. Quite simply, it is not. While there are multiple layers of encryption involved in the AirPlay audio streaming protocol, their primary purpose appears to be preventing third parties from building applications which interoperate with AirPlay.
Thankfully, reverse engineering devices and protocols for the purpose of interoperability is a time-honored, and legally sound, tradition. It is, among other things, largely responsible for the PC revolution and the computing landscape we enjoy today. Should we stop providing users with products that work together simply because other vendors dislike competition?
As we noted earlier, there is a way to re-enable the AirPlay feature that Apple removed from Airfoil.
- Apple let’s Airfoil back into the App Store, without its coolest feature (9to5mac.com)
- Put AirPlay back into Airfoil Speakers Touch with this quick hack (9to5mac.com)
- Apple removes Rogue Amoeba’s audio streaming app without reason (9to5mac.com)