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Apple Adds an Odd Wrinkle to iPhone Apps Policy

Alex Sokirynsky is one of the thousands of developers to enthusiastically jump on the iPhone bandwagon with a new application. But he waited for weeks to have his Podcaster application approved by Apple for distribution via its App Store. The good news is his $9.99 application wasn't rejected; the bad news was nothing was happening, as he dutifully reported on his Almerica blog.

Finally, he reporting getting word back from Apple rep that Podcaster would not be approved because it "assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes."

This struck Sokirynsky as odd, since there is nothing in Apple's developer agreement for iPhone developers that prohibits them from duplicating features available in other applications. It should be noted that his Podcaster app doesn't just let users download and listen to podcasts like iTunes does, it adds the ability to download them directly to the device (e.g. the iPhone), which Apple doesn't offer.

Plus, in the time he's been waiting for approval, Sokirynsky said he's added other features such as a more "user friendly" podcast directory and an auto sync feature that will download the most current 10 podcasts while deleting any older items.

He goes on to note that numerous iPhone apps that have been approved duplicate the functions of others. For example, there are calculator apps that duplicate Apple's and any application that lets you listen to music essentially offers the same thing as the iPod portion of the iPhone.

Apple did not respond to a request by InternetNews.com earlier today for comment. A blogger for the New York Times who first reported the Sokirynsky saga earlier today, said an Apple spokesperson agreed to look into the matter last Friday afternoon but hasn't followed up as of yet.

Analyst Maribel Lopez, of San Francisco-based Lopez Research, said she's not surprised Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) restricted Podcaster for the reasons stated. "The iPhone isn't the most open of developer environments," Lopez told InternetNews.com. "You're still within the confinement of Apple's system and the SDK , just as you would be with RIM and others."

Several comments on both the Times and Almerica blogs speculated Apple might be planning to offer functionality similar to Podcaster's and the company wants to keep that feature to itself.

But Apple's main guidelines for why it would restrict applications is help insure security and stability to the platform as well as to keep out pornographic and other material it deems inappropriate. Lopez notes the most recent iPhone software update addressed stability issue caused by some third party applications.

Analyst Roger Kay said Apple also has the right to control what happens on its platform in a broader sense. "And it will continue to do so until someone decides it's a monopoly and has to act like a regulated utility," Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com. "Once that happens, Apple won't be able to be so arbitrary about who can or cannot hook up to their system."

For now, Sokirynsky said he's figured out a way to sell Podcaster for download without Apple's help.