By Nate Adcock on Mon, 12/21/2009
i.TV is one of my favorite apps... The reason is that I hardly ever watch TV. You see, because I'm a cable remote dummy, it takes me forever to find shows/channels. It's great to be able to quickly pull up an easy to navigate listing, even tune in previews and rent movies right from my iPod touch. The app had some recent challenges with stability evidently, and it's top rating suffered as a result (was even pulled from the store at one point). It then took a double-wammy due to a problem with Apple's download services (erroneously sending an old version). This post started out being about how great i.TV really is (now that it is fixed), and how I updated the newer version, and it's all good so far (which it is), but I think a better post would be a discussion on putting all your technical eggs in one basket, and how that one basket can easily hurt your product reputation very rapidly.
First off, I give kudos to the stand-up way that the folks at i.TV handled the initial problems. Not only did they pull the application, they notified everyone about their actions, explaining the reasons. This is commendable behavior, and I wish far more vendors adopted a similar ethic. The app is once again available in the App store (as of this writing), and disaster at least partly averted.
Now to the lesson a developer might take from this experience, as now i.TV is sending out notifications again apologizing, but also encouraging users to re-rate the app (due to it's decline in popularity). Even after the issues were fixed, and the app was reinstated, users in large numbers were still having crashes. After investigating, it was determined that Apple servers were still sending out older copies of the application. This was quickly remedied, but many users who had issues probably rated the app lower while not knowling this. So, if you use i.TV and find the latest version works well, please go in and rate the app again honestly, especially if you previously rated it low only due to the issues.
No doubt this is all the result of an honest mistake, but herein is a perfect example of the capricious nature of the often boom or bust App store economy and the limiting aspects of it's stove-piped approval and delivery process. A market where a mistake can cause a disastrous rating drop which could negatively affect your sales. Developer shops who have a large portfolio of mobile apps in the hopper, especially ones that develop for a variety of Mobile OS flavors do not need to worry as much about the minor ups and downs of single apps, but for a smaller developer with a limited number of apps, it could be devastating. It can be argued that it is unjust to vendors who in good faith are doing their best to bring their artistry to market. Apple, for it's part, would do well to remember that the iPhone and iPod touch, as wonderful as they are, owe a large amount of credit to the developers who actually give us something interesting to do with these devices. In some cases an intervention might be in order (though, I admit, I don't know exactly what that would be). How do you quantify such an intervention? How much damage was done by the app problems, and how much by the download mistake? Apple is notoriously tight-lipped and reluctant about dealing with mistakes, IMHO. My advice to mobile developers that have all their eggs in one basket....Branch out!