UPDATE: 27th August 2012 - Apple have reversed their decision and will be re-instating the SCOtutor Video Tutorial Apps into the iTunes Store.
Bit of bad news...
The SCOtutor apps have been extremely well received in both the Mac and iOS apps stores. Each title has appeared in the top charts of their categories when released, and I've have tons and tons of great feedback on them all. They really do appear to have been a valuable resource to many people.
The free apps for iPad and Mac have been well received and I've had lots of comments back from people on how they've helped new users and removed the support burden for many people. They've been in the top education apps since they went free.
I submitted an update to one of my iOS apps a couple of weeks ago with a simple update to the icon. I've been updating all the apps with a new icon across the board.
Surprisingly, the app was rejected.
The approval process has not been without problems so I wasn't too concerned. However, when I read the reason for the rejection, I was taken aback somewhat:
2.21: Apps that are simply a song or movie should be submitted to the iTunes store. Apps that are simply a book should be submitted to the iBookstore
That was a new one.
Perfectly understandable I thought, although none of the other apps had previously been rejected with this ruling, I figured it must be something new.
On the face of it, I totally agree that if an an app is "simply a movie" it should not be in the App Store.
I assumed that they meant "movies", you know, "films" as we say in the UK - "Motion Pictures", "Theatrical Releases" cinematic content produced for purely entertainment reasons - "Movies"
Absolutely! iTunes is the right place for them - no question.
But the SCOtutor Apps are not movies - they are educational tutorials wrapped up in a bespoke player optimised for reviewing and learning. They have special controls for easily navigating the content and all have English captions. The application is engineered for multilingual subtitles that change the popup chapters into the selected language. They are certainly not "just movies".
Confidently, I submitted an appeal against what I thought was a simple misunderstanding.
I received a call last week saying the appeal had been turned down and in Apple's judgement, they were just movies for consumption.
Even worse, they were going to review the rest of the apps and if they were the same, they would pull all the other apps from the stores too.
So, I resisted the urge to vent my spleen via Twitter and decided to think about the situation overnight.
The upshot was that in discussions with Simon Wolf, the SCOtutor developer, we've decided to enhance all the SCOtutor applications with some additional interactive functionality, to change the experience to something more interactive. The first version of the new enhanced SCOtutor app will allow you to create notes and annotate the tutorial using timestamps. Wherever you are in the tutorial, just tap a button and your notes appear, tap another button and the timestamp of your current position will be inserted, allowing you to mark specific points of the video. Tap done and the video will resume playing. In addition, you'll able to export and share the notes via email.
You can't do that with a movie in iTunes!
And we have even more interactivity planned for future releases.
The main ruling against the current SCOtutor app was that it is a passive experience, so we're going to make the SCOtutor apps as interactive as possible to keep the Apps in the App stores. Hopefully, the new version of the App with the extra functionality will be submitted later this week for Apple to review.
I was going to remain quiet, and not even mention this in public
I had hoped we could submit new versions of the Apps before they pulled all the Apps from the stores. However, I've just taken a follow up call from Apple this afternoon, and they confirmed they will be pulling all the Apps from the stores in the next few days.
If you want to get a copy, you'll need to act quick.
I've no beef with Apple applying the letter of the (their) law and if they consider the SCOtutor Apps to be movies, then so be it. We'll just try and make them much more of an interactive experience, and hopefully get them through the approval process and re-instated.
Obviously it's going to cost me more money, time and stress getting the apps updated, but I think it's worth it.
The main reason for pursuing this is that I do feel that this content does belong in the Apps Stores and not in iTunes. They are extremely valuable resources for people and it saddens me to think that the apps would be withdrawn - especially the free titles which have proven to be so popular and helped so many people.
Of course, this does not affect the weekly ScreenCastsOnline service or membership in the slightest - that will continue on as before, the SCOtutor Apps were just a spin off of ScreenCastsOnline.
So this post is not a tirade about the unfairness of the App Store approval process or intended to whip up a frenzy about the injustice of them removing all my apps.
Apple have changed the App Store rules, and the SCOtutor apps have fallen foul of the new rules. On reflection, the ruling has resulted in a better app experience and will actually turn the SCOtutor apps into better products.
Hopefully the new interactive versions of the Apps will be approved and made available via the mechanisms where they are most appropriate.
In the meantime, if you were holding out on getting any of the SCOtutor apps, you'd best act quickly! You can see a page with all the SCOtutor Apps here.
Simon has worked wonders and delivered an updated version of the app in record time. I've just re-submitted the enhanced version of app that got rejected to Apple for review. Might take a week or so before I hear back. Fingers crossed it will be enough to keep the SCOtutor apps in the stores,
Looks like Apple have held true to their word and removed all the SCOtutor apps from sale for the iTunes App Store as of this morning. The Mac App Store titles remain for now. No word yet on the approval of the enhanced App but it's going to take at least another week before I hear back.
Bother! Despite the additional enhancements, Apple have rejected the Apps again on the basis they still think they are movies?
Onwards and upwards - I have yet another cunning plan, but I'll keep it under my hat for now. Will update you following the next review which will probably take a couple of weeks.