Oh For Pete’s Sake Apple, Will You Pull Your Head Out?

I see Apple (s aapl) let Ninjawords in the App Store. Good for it. But there’s just one little thing

Apple censored an English dictionary.

A dictionary. A reference book. For words contained in all reasonable dictionaries. For words contained in dictionaries that are used every day in elementary school libraries and classrooms.

Apple, a dictionary? Are you insane? Not only should it not have been censored, but it’s ridiculous that it would have required a 17+ rating anyway.

This article is not about Ninjawords, except that it shows how yet another ridiculous rejection makes Apple seem more and more out of control, because it really has no handle on the process whatsoever. With hundreds of apps to review, and pressure from developers who want approval yesterday, they’ve lost control.

People are calling for written app approval guidelines, but it can’t be just that. I’ve seen numerous process breakdowns where the procedures were just fine. A written document only goes so far; the thing must be implemented. Two builders will not construct the same house from the same blueprint. One may be excellent, the other shoddy. It’s about people, too. For example, common sense would not allow app rejection based on a standard dictionary, yet here we are.

Aside from procedures, it’s a lack of control over the personnel. How else to explain similar apps getting in and others not? Or the same app getting in later with no changes? Different folks are interpreting the rules differently, with little oversight, and with varying degrees of “customer service.” (Here’s a hint, Apple: When a developer is trying to get their app approved, they’re your customer. Treat them like one.)

So what can Apple do? There’s no silver bullet to address this — we’ll see more silly rejections before this gets better — but Apple must act fast, because it’s falling apart. Personally, I think it’s time Apple personel had a meeting like they did after the MobileMe rollout debacle. I don’t know when or where that meeting took place, but I’ll bet it wasn’t pretty. It was probably downright ugly, but it was necessary.

Just like that screwup, these problems can’t be fixed in a week or two, so Apple shouldn’t try to pretend it can. When it came clean with MobileMe, Apple said it would take four months to make it a service it could be proud of. We need a realistic ETA for the App Store as well. Apple must perform whatever management shakeup/changes are necessary, communicate them to the user base and development community, and then start getting it done. Apple is just embarrassing itself.