Remember Airfoil Speakers Touch app? Of course you do, this nifty little program from Rogue Amoeba turns your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad into an audio receiver so you can send any audio from your desktop to your iOS device. As you know, Apple pulled it two weeks ago without giving the team much of an explanation only to allow it into the store a few days ago.

Wanna know about Apple’s reasoning behind this rejection? Here’s an email exchange between Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller (also known internally as Dr. No, you may guess why) and  the Rogue  Amoeba team…

Rogue’s Kevin Starbird first fired up this email to Apple’s Schiller:

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…

Very sincerely,

Kevin Starbird

Duarte, CA

Schiller responded soon thereafter, arguing that Rogue’s recount of the events posted on their website wasn’t accurate because Apple pulled the program strictly due to violation of their developer agreement:

Mr Starbird,

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.

Sincerely,

Phil

In other words, the Airfoil Speakers Touch app was removed over duplicate functionality of AirPlay, a technology from Apple for wireless media streaming to the Apple TV box.

Schiller’s argument didn’t fly with Amoeba, which posted a public response on its website. Basically, Amoeba says its didn’t use any of the private APIs and instead wrote its own code from scratch to receive AirPlay audio.

They also noted that reverse-engineering pieces of code has always been “a time-honored, and legally sound, tradition”.

Here’s their response included below in its entirety.

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.

Mr. Schiller also got what was coming for him.

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.

And a little educational note on reverse-engineering.

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?

To me, this whole brouhaha indicates that Apple is probably working on AirPlay enhancements meant to allow for direct media streaming between iOS devices, bypassing the Apple TV, which is basically what Airfoil Speakers Touch does.

As for me, my hope is that Apple with iOS 6 will relax its terms and allow third-parties to replicate functionalities of stock apps.

If they hadn’t changed their stance, awesome apps like Sparrow wouldn’t have been possible now.

If Apple doesn’t build on that, Android will continue to have an edge in terms of advanced functionality and customization.

Sadly, Apple’s behavior in this regard is pretty petulant at times.

Schiller also heads Apple’s developer relations and he might perhaps have a little explaining to do come next Monday.

Thoughts?

Killian Bel over at Cult of Mac first reported on this news nugget.

  • jose castro

    stupid apple lol….. they have the most stupid rules ever made.

  • Boycott app store! Or take it to cydia.

  • I would love this app! Toss it on Cydia 🙂

  • Well it is in the swiss Appstore don’t know what u guys have…

  • ExRoot

    It June 9th at 10:15am and I just downloaded the app from the app store.

    • Dawiiz

      The new version has cut some of the features.

  • Guys, please, what did you expect ? They would eventually find something to ban this more or less (by ban I mean removing the feature and/or removing from AppStore) -.- Cydia Store is always open 🙂

  • Martijn_Brunott

    Phil, please remember.. What you have, as Apple, is an image to uphold.. We Users expect nothing but the best from Apple. We have become accustomed to receiving simply awesome products.

    Taking away options isn’t the way to compete with the likes of Android who provide more freedom to design and create options.
    While I get that it needs to be scrutinized for quality, security and awesomeness’ sake.. Why not just try to help boost the product you have already made a household ‘want’ for everyone (‘Need’ for myself and most others who’ve owned any Apple product!).
    I understand that you have added the App back to the AppStore, albeit with less functionality ?
    Just the act of having removed it has damaged your credibility. Be clear on your developer policies and agreements. This kind of publicity isn’t cool !

    Promote User Apps ! Sort out the Policies and focus on helping more developers build the most perfect Mobile OS with you !
    It’s a Win for both parties !

    Martijn

    • Hyr3m

      Phil, please remember.. What you have, as Apple, is a very lame image, We Users don’t expect anything from Apple anymore. We have become accustomed to receiving simply overpriced low-specs products.

      Taking away options is the way you have always competed with the likes of Android who always provided more freedom to design and create options.

      Martijn, how are you still surprised by the rotten Apple’s policies ?

      • Martijn_Brunott

        I’m not entirely sure that, by responding to you, it would be of any benefit as you appear to be quite bitter about a few things (Apple related) and would rather chose to see things in a negative light. Being bitter about things doesn’t allow for a mature discussion. Every company has up’s and downs. I choose to view Apples’ offerings and methods as generally quite positive in comparison to most others in the same league.

        I believe, especially after last nights WWDC event, that they are an amazing company and they are the only company that keeps us on our toes, waiting for the next awesome release of anything they do.

        All others seem to follow like sheep and try to get to the level Apple keeps achieving. That has to count for a little more than you had to offer in your comments.

        And I don’t really wish to get in to an argument over trivial differences of opinion. Forums like this aren’t really the place to use for venting.

      • Hyr3m

        Hey Martijn, first of all I apologize for the format of my initial response. I am indeed a bit bitter about most things presented as “awesome” in this world we currently live in. When I read your comment I couldn’t help but think of how I would have formulated what you said so I figured I would have a laugh and go for it.

        I disagree on the bitter aspect being anti-productive discussion-wise. I believe it is quite the contrary; only once people have gone beyond the basic feelings generated by successful marketing campaigns can they hope to see the whole picture and have a _truly_ adult discussion.

        There are 3 main aspects we can discuss about Apple :
        Marketing/”Public” Ideology : Apple is indeed one of the best companies in the world in this regard and it is fair to say that they owe a huge part of their success to their image and strategies.

        Hardware/Software : They use pretty mid-range tech but have created a very basic system that doesn’t need powerful hardware to run (speaking mostly of portable devices, Let’s not even get on their computers and unix os). The bottom line is that they have fairly acceptable products for neophytes who think that these are the best products existing on earth, which simply isn’t true.

        Ethics/Ideology : Apple wants to rule the world with technologies and own all of its data. They have been known to sell and give access to confidential user information to the government of certain countries so we can only start to guess what they’ve done that we don’t know about. On this regard, having recently dropped their “don’t be evil” motto, Google is not much better. They’re all slowly joining the gang of nwo-“enlightened”-nazi-loving corporations and political entities and we should all be very worried about this. Democracy and freedom as we(‘ve) know(n) it are on the verge of extinction. We are on a slippery slope and as much as we now enjoy the benefits of this new abundance of information gathering (and there are many), we will suffer the consequences of trusting unethical corporations with our secrets.

        Honestly, I don’t expect anything from Apple anymore, they’ll continue using people as cash cows by presenting minor hardware and software upgrades (and even sometimes downgrades, objectively) as revolutionary, just like they always did – and they’ll fuck everyone over while they’re at it. All of this whilst working against a global uniform information system (except if you take “taking over the world” as an acceptable solution) and abusing the patenting and legal systems to fight companies with higher ethical standards.

        I don’t believe these are truly differences of opinion. It’s all about facts and knowing them, researching the truth and figuring out how things play out in this world but most importantly why they do so.

      • Martijn_Brunott

        Hi Hyr3m,

        Many thanks for your reply – I enjoyed reading it very much. I must be honest and say that I was a little surprised at your tone as I was expecting some more resistance 😉
        You have covered it in quite a clear manner and while I don’t agree with a few items, I find myself agreeing, in principle, with most of what you have written.
        I must add.. I don’t mind being used as a Cash-Cow so long as I get the service, product and general awesomeness I expect to get when being charged a premium for something I use all the time. By saying premium I don’t refer to the “Apple TAX” as many others have – I believe this to be grossly misunderstood by most people as their product can be compared across the board with others and the prices can be seen to match or be cheaper after everything is taken in to consideration. It simply appears to be a premium as there is no entry level to compare against (in my opinion).Generally speaking I have had awesome service and product when i comes to Apple (where I certainly haven’t had with others and I can honestly say that most people that shift to Apple, never look back so it must count for something from the others’ point of view too) ..so my experience will dictate my dedication to them (much like Audi and BMW Drivers are dedicated to their cars) as there is apparently something that the “lesser models” don’t have that they’ve grown to enjoy in their Audi or BMW (or which ever it may be for that person).
        Anyhow, Thanks again ! As I said, I did enjoy the read !
        Keep Well,Martijn

      • Hyr3m

        So there was a benefit in answering me after all 😛

        I agree with you, all of this feels good when it’s presented with the right pitch (and/or good reason) and little by little. However, if you imagine telling people 20 years ago that huge corporations would know their every move, who they’re talking to, for how long, which websites they visit and that it has access to your personal pictures and messages/emails, contacts and whatnot. You’d be laughed at, called crazy and told that people would never accept that.

        Just like M$ got sued because of IE and WMP, Apple should get sued for their methods, all we need is a judge with balls and an android phone (’cause I can’t imagine an iPhone user being objective about Apple’s methods)

        Mercedes Benz has a fairly good service too btw 😀

      • Martijn_Brunott

        Hi Hyr3m,

        Many thanks for your reply – I enjoyed reading it very much. I must be honest and say that I was a little surprised at your tone as I was expecting some more resistance 😉
        You have covered it in quite a clear manner and while I don’t agree with a few items, I find myself agreeing, in principle, with most of what you have written.
        I must add.. I don’t mind being used as a Cash-Cow so long as I get the service, product and general awesomeness I expect to get when being charged a premium for something I use all the time. By saying premium I don’t refer to the “Apple TAX” as many others have – I believe this to be grossly misunderstood by most people as their product can be compared across the board with others and the prices can be seen to match or be cheaper after everything is taken in to consideration. It simply appears to be a premium as there is no entry level to compare against (in my opinion).Generally speaking I have had awesome service and product when i comes to Apple (where I certainly haven’t had with others and I can honestly say that most people that shift to Apple, never look back so it must count for something from the others’ point of view too) ..so my experience will dictate my dedication to them (much like Audi and BMW Drivers are dedicated to their cars) as there is apparently something that the “lesser models” don’t have that they’ve grown to enjoy in their Audi or BMW (or which ever it may be for that person).
        Anyhow, Thanks again ! As I said, I did enjoy the read !
        Keep Well,Martijn

  • dcs

    stupid apple