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SCOtutor iOS Apps - The Current Situation

UPDATE: 27th August 2012 - Apple have reversed their decision and will be re-instating the SCOtutor Video Tutorial Apps into the iTunes Store.

I'm publishing an update for all those people who are disappointed that the SCOtutor Apps are still no longer available in the iOS App Store. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the worse overnight, and Apple have rejected the latest version of the App with the rather disappointing statement that:

We found that your App is primarily a video tutorial with chapters and is therefore not Appropriate for the App Store, as noted in the App Store Review Guidelines.

I should point out that this phrase appears nowhere in Apple's published guidelines, only references to 'movies' not being appropriate.

I've appealed against the decision, but I fear this may be a losing battle. I've documented the sorry tale below and will forward a copy to Tim Cook and Phil Schiller at Apple to see if they can get some one involved to sort out the inconsistent and flawed strategy.

So here's a version of the current situation I'll be sending off (apologies for the length, but it's a long story):

The Current Situation - August 11th 2012

Until recently I had five apps in the iOS App Store, branded as "SCOtutor" apps. The apps received many, many 5 star reviews plus lots of outstanding written reviews.

Once I had recouped the original development and design costs, I made two titles free; “SCOtutor for iPad” and “SCOtutor for Mac". These were aimed at brand new users of the iPad and Mac and were extremely popular, obviously even more so once I'd made them free, both reaching the top of the free Education charts. Each app contains several hours of top quality education and were also unique, in that they were the only apps in the iOS App store with closed captions for accessibility.

Back in May, I created a new Title “SCOtutor for iBooks Author” and submitted this for review. It was rejected under section:

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.

I immediately thought this was a mistake and that perhaps the reviewer was being overzealous. Whilst the app did contain video content it certainly wasn’t a ”movie”, in the traditional sense. The fact that I already had a small portfolio of similar Apps which had been approved, and since the store also contained tens of similar apps, albeit covering a range of subjects, I took the ruling to apply to actual "movies"; those which had a theatrical release, video documentaries or titles available commercially on DVD. Basically, a "movie" you'd normally go to see in a Cinema or Movie Theatre,

I resubmitted the app with a note of explanation, but it was rejected again under the same ruling.

I appealed to the review board and this time I received a phone call from Apple informing me that the appeal had been rejected for the same reason - it was regarded as a "movie”. In addition, the Apple rep told me that all my other existing apps were to be reviewed and if found to be the same, would be withdrawn from sale by Apple.

Sure enough, a week or two later, I received another phone call from Apple informing me that all my iOS Apps were being summarily withdrawn from sale by Apple, as well as the free titles.

A few weeks later, I checked and saw that there were still dozens of video tutorials still on the iOS App Store. They had not been withdrawn as mine had.

Since then, I've had emails and tweets from hundreds of people wondering what has happened and expressing a range of emotions from disappointment to frustration to anger aimed towards Apple. I have spent a lot of time and energy placating these enquiries with the response that I was working with Apple to try and get the titles re-instated.

In the meantime, I had asked my developer to re-engineer the app to include some additional functionality. We added in a unique note taking feature to assist the user making notes as they watched the tutorial, and resubmitted the app. By adding in functionality that could not be replicated in a “movie”, I was confident the app would be accepted and rejoin the dozens of other video tutorial apps on the iOS App Store.

It was again rejected again on the grounds that it was a ”movie”.

A further check in the iOS App Store revealed that the other video tutorials were still there, most with no additional features, many of a very poor quality and none with support for subtitles or closed captions. However, I did notice that most of them were modular, small chunks of video accessed via a menu, whereas mine was a single video with chapters. Functionally, there was no difference, as it was just as easy to navigate around my single video, but if it needed to be modular like all the others, then so be it.

Believing this to possibly be the issue for the "movie" rejection - one long video, we decided to re-engineer the app again. This time we took the single video and split it into individual lessons, as well as re-engineering the user interface to make a lesson list visible at all times. Not an inconsiderable amount of time, effort and expense.

The updated application now included a unique notetaking facility, a visible lesson list with options to navigate around the lessons, english subtitles for accessibility (my “SCOtutor for Lion” title also includes multilingual subtitles in five languages) and an optimised video playback control panel to adjust speed and position in the lesson. We were now using a similar approach to many of the other video tutorial apps still in the store, and in the majority of cases, making it a far superior experience for our users.

The app was resubmitted a week or so ago to Apple and I received a notification last night that the app had been rejected again:

Binary Rejected Aug 10, 2012 02:51 PM

Reasons for Rejection: 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

Aug 10, 2012 02:51 PM. From Apple. 2.21

We found that your App is primarily a video tutorial with chapters and is therefore not Appropriate for the App Store, as noted in the App Store Review Guidelines.

Songs and movies should be submitted to the iTunes store. For more information about distributing content in the iTunes store, please see iTunes Partner as a Content Provider.

Emphasis is mine - So the ruling was now not just that the app was a ”movie” but that it was “a video tutorial with chapters”.

I should point out that this phrase does not appear in any of the current Apple guidelines, the first time I've seen it was in direct response to my recent app submission. Whilst I acknowledge that Apple are free to change and amend the guidelines as they see fit, and that they are just guidelines, I do feel that the goalposts are shifting.

Additionally, despite this ruling a search for “video tutor” on the iOS App Store reveals 60 iPhone Apps and 50 iPad Apps are still available for sale on the iOS App Store.

I have lodged another appeal with the review board but feel that I am now fighting a losing battle. For whatever reason Apple has decided that video tutorial applications are not suitable for the iOS App Store, despite there being no published guidance to this effect.

This decision is a disservice to Apple's and my customers.

The removal of the iOS SCOtutor apps isn’t about the revenue loss to me, it’s about the availability of quality training materials via the iOS App Store, and the removal of choice for Apple customers.

Video tutorials would be lost in the iTunes Store amongst all the entertainment titles.

As a side note, it’s impossible for me (or any other independent video trainer) to register to sell video tutorials directly in the iTunes store as suggested in the rejection statement, as I do not meet the requirements of “5 feature-length movies or documentaries that were released theatrically (or) 100 feature-length movies or documentaries that were either released theatrically or direct to video.”

Yes, even by Apple's own guidelines, movies are feature-length theatrical releases or documentaries.

Apple are hurting their own customers by not allowing appropriate training materials in the iOS App Store in the form of video tutorials and I sincerely hope they can right this wrong, before all video tutorials are withdrawn from sale.

Assuming it's not just my video tutorials they are targeting!

As an aside, I do realise that it might be possible to attempt to sell (or make available for free) my training videos via the iBookstore. This may be an approach I will investigate if Apple decide to withdraw all video tutorials from the iOS App store. I would prefer to offer my customers the choice to have the videos delivered via the iOS App store if that is their preferred mechanism.

Will keep you posted.

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  • Response
    SCOtutor iOS Apps - The Current Situation - My Blog - The Mac Screencast Guy

Reader Comments (28)

This is the same situation that used to exist for authors back in the paper book publishing days. If the publisher didn't want to print your title it didn't get published.

Fortunately, you can continue to run your own publishing house via the web. I think that is the way to go for smaller and larger publishers, whether of content or applications. We the users of computational devices, shouldn't allow Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to decide which apps are allowed on our devices and which aren't.

A pox on Apple's censors!

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrichardf

Seems like a repeat of the same saga Isaiah Carew went through with his clock app:

Companies like Apple used to have a customer satisfaction guarantee and would bend over backwards to support developers and promote the Apple name. Seems that since Apple started hiring ex-Dixons staff to lead their operations, standards have fallen sharply. I hope common sense prevails and you get this resolved quickly.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill Woodgate

I hope you'll consider the iBook format. At $4.99 to $ 7.99 or thereabouts, they definitely appeal to me and will also make great gifts for my clients or friends who are new to IOS or the Mac OS.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Hope Apple can get this fixed.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndyy

Maybe iTunes U is a possible venue for publishing the SCO Tutor apps? But maybe it is restricted too?

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Daly

"asked my developer to re-engineer the app to include some additional functionality"

Yeah that's pretty much the problem right there. You're adding in features to get around Apple rejection and not because you think your users want them.

Apps like this are just glorified websites and don't belong on the store. Sorry.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Wight

Capricious doesnt even to being to describe it. Sorry man that sucks. I know life isnt fair, but you would think that somebody would pull their head out and see that the guidelines dont make sense and that there are types of media which dont fit neatly into categories which is why the app store is fine for them. I used to download hypnosis apps - what if apple had rejected them as "just a sound recording".... Keep fighting youll get back in.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbobx

Wow. Talk about biting the hand that feeds them. If not for SCO tutorials, there are many Apple titles I can guarantee I would have never learned to use. Sad that a bull-headed review team is choosing the likes of SCO to make an example, while leaving a wasteland of lesser video-only apps untouched. Sorry to hear this, Don!

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVeryVito

To whom do we write (email address) to express our displeasure?
(I'll be polite, but seriously perturbed.)

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKerry Millerick

The iBook Store is available in less countries than either the iOS App Store or the iTunes Store. If you go that way, they will not, for instance, be available in New Zealand.

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllister

What really bothers me about this is the fact that there is so much "crap" in both the MAS and iTunes stores. Why they choose to pick on something that is of obvious value to Apple's own clientele is beyond me. I wholeheartedly back you in this endeavor and hope saner minds rule.

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay

Good lord what is wrong with Apple?

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

@Jonathan Wright...It appears you've never used the SCO apps or been a member of SCO. Websites by definition are accessed via the web, which requires use of the Internet. The tutorial apps can be used in any device, at any time and are therefore MUCH more useful and valuable than a website.

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoshNippon

So, the SCOtutor Apps can't be sold in the iOS App Store because they're 'just' movies so must be sold through iTunes. To sell a 'movie' in iTunes you have to have theatrical and/or DVD releases of full length features and/or documentaries. Now, I like Don's Screencasts but I'm not 100% sure I'd go to the cinema to see them (no offence Don)!

A quick search, as Don did, reveals a load of other 'video' tutorials. One guy even has iOS and Mac versions of his video tutorials. Don is either being deliberately targeted here for reasons unknown, is the victim of a dunce in the Apple iOS Store review chain, or he's just the first casualty of a much bigger picture.

Since Apple themselves don't tell people how to use half their stuff I'm glad there's people like Don about who take the time to help us learn. Contrary to belief, Apple stuff doesn't 'just work' if you don't know how to do what you want to do. Yes, I know he does tutorials for other stuff but my gut feeling is that it's the fact he's based his iOS content on Apple products that's really upset them.

If all the other Apple product 'movie' tutorial apps were being yanked out of the store then I would say fair enough, Don will just have to find another way of delivering his content. However, if others are staying in with almost identical content (despite, I'm sure, Don pointing it out to Apple that they exist) then we have to assume there's something else going on here.

@Kerry Millerick: I'm guessing you'd email Tim Cook or Phil Schiller at Apple. It's what Don did!

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Apples attitude is really disappointing and stupid. I was showing client how to use her new iPad last week, she's an older lady and needs a fair bit of hand holding. The iPad tutorial would have been ideal for her, and I went to download it onto her iPad last week and it had gone.

Hope they see sense soon!

Yours - Antony

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAntony


Please let us as subscribers know if there is anything we can do to complain about this to Apple. Thank you for providing the great content, hopefully this will get resolved in a timely manner.

Dennis - Columbus, OH

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDennis White

Tutorials obviously fall into several camps and may or may not belong in any of them. It's clear therefore that Apple need to make a special section somewhere for tutorials and that somewhere is probably best suited to the app store. Apple - you make brilliant products but you sometimes seem to have no sense at all.


August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGraham Russell

Given the high number of submissions that Apple must receive, I wonder if they have introduced a first-stage pass that simply looks at the contents of a submission and performs an automated filtering process on it. That would explain why an app that is basically video would get rejected even though a human being could see that there was more to it.

Given that it's easy to embed video in an iBook, maybe you should give up banging your head against Apple's wall and simply go the iBookstore route after all!

I hope you get a personal response and explanation soon, though, because the situation you've described is quite odd to say the least!

Good luck, Don. I'll be following this with interest.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGavin Wynford-Jones

I am afraid Apple are not able to handle the success, volume and hype which they have been enjoying since the inception of iPhone. The quality of service has deteriorated as volume of work grew exponentially.

And I doubt if they can sustain innovation at present levels. Smart phone and tablet customers have no loyalty - they will follow trends and fashion - and will switch instantly. What goes up - must come down eventually. I will not be surprised if this happens sooner than what people think.

Arrogance have always been a part of corporate culture at Apple. You might as well be talking to a bunch of headless robots.

At least in my case, I bought many Apple and non-Apple software because of SCO tutorials. I guess it is up to Apple to to act stupid or otherwise.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCevdet Basacik

From what I've seen of the way other content providers are doing, and the way Apple are positioning iBooks (especially with iBooks Author) they want you to go down the iBooks route and - comments about customer choice aside - I think your content should be there anyway.

With regard to the "there are other apps on sale" argument, Apple clearly seem to have a review-on-update policy to save them the effort of trawling the whole app store for violations of changing acceptance criteria.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave

This seems very strange to me. Don's tutorials are widely acknowledged to be the best in the business. Apple would have to benefit more by having them on the app store than not. Come on Apple, grow up and treat developers like Don with some respect, he is no fly-by-nighter, but a respected member of the Mac and iOS communities.

Very disappointing Apple.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRod Hysted

I don't believe this. Don is the best in the business. It's typical that Apple don't give him the credit he deserves. In my opinion Don should have been on the top payroll of Apple employees, considering how much he has contributed to the Mac Community with top class tutorials weekly for many years. Instead Apple turns him down - unbelievable.

I have often been disappointed with Apple. Apple says it has a great support with the Apple Protection Plan. OK, that works, but have you tried to get some support from Apple if you don't have it? You get NADA! I have first hand experience with both being outside and inside an Apple Protection Plan. Remember, the Apple Protection Plan is a service you PAY for, like an insurance policy. Now if you have an insurance policy and your house burns down, you expect your insurance to cover it. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SUPPORT, so Apple has nothing to brag about, support wise. Device wise, it is different. I guess that's why Apple still has customers, but this may quickly change if the service level continues to drop. Honestly, I have been fed up with Apple's lack of support for many years already.

Don McAllister is one of the most important tutors for me and in my opinion for the whole Mac Community. Apple is stupid to cut him out. Instead Apple should embrace him but is to arrogant to do so. Apple obviously benefits from having Don's tutorials in the App Store, so it is beyond me why Apple decides to reject his tutorials, which is the best way to learn about Mac Operating Systems and Apple apps as well as third party apps. If I was with Apple, I would have suggested to include Don's tutorials in all of the stores, to make sure as many people as possible were made aware of the tutorials. Apple can only benefit from that, but instead Apple unbelievably turns Don's tutorials down. If Apple don't like that Don covers 3rd party apps, then shame on Apple. I would definitely not use a Mac computer if I could not use 3rd party applications.

I think Apple should think again about Don's work and give him an apology (and may be some compensation for time wasted in the process of getting the tutorials back in) and reinstate his works into the Mac App Store, whether they are videos, movies or books. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that Don is the best tutor, and thus promotor Apple has ever had, and Apple even seems to get him for free. Still Apple is stupid enough not to recognize that. Too bad Apple! Thumbs up for Don.

I really hope you get back in, Don. It would be good for you and for the community, but it would be even better for Apple, only Apple is to stupid to see it.

Shame on Apple!

Keep up the good work Don!!

Guttorm Kittelsen

Don! You may use this text or parts of it as you see fit in your correspondence with Apple.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGuttorm Kittelsen

@Jonathon Wright "Apps like this are just glorified websites and don't belong on the store. Sorry."

Seriously? Do you work for Apple? Have you used an SCO app? If you don't have anything intelligent to offer, please troll elsewhere.

My historical experience attempting to resolve any matter with iTunes or App Store personnel is akin to having a conversation with a one-dimensional robot. Their repetitive, canned responses have been on the side of idiotic/moronic, completely ignoring the question posed.

Personally, I have benefited greatly from the SCO apps. Just finished watching the Screen Flow tutorial. It was highly instructional and gave me new ideas for video creation. This format ought to be the standard for tutorial apps.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

This absolutely sucks.. All the major web video training companies have apps. Not only that but the sheer amount of piano and gutair training apps that are nothing more than video with chapters is fairly large as well. And MacProVideo still seems to do a ton of one off applications that are essentially the same application rebranded (and costing money)... It makes no sense for them to be targeting you.

Grrr... I love apple but sometimes the execution of there policies is frustrating.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeth Goldberg

I hope this can be sorted out soon. I fear Apple is shooting itself in the foot with many of its hard-line stance. You are a godsend to those of us who are new or were new, to the Apple OS. I have learned so much and due to your videos I am an avid Apple user. You make integration of all their systems easy and productive.

Thank you!

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy von Hassel-Davies

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