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Thursday, August 06, 2009, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Apple's Schiller personally responds to App Store criticism

In an unprecedented move, Apple executive Phil Schiller has personally responded a report that criticized the company's handling of a third-party dictionary program on the iPhone App Store.

In an e-mail to John Gruber of Daring Fireball, Schiller explained that the developers of the application Ninjawords were asked months ago to resubmit their application once iPhone OS 3.0 with parental controls came out, due to questionable content included in the software. Instead, the developer decided to remove the "offensive" words, which were included in the application's source Wikitionary.org, but not in traditional dictionaries.

"The issue that the App Store reviewers did find with the Ninjawords application is that it provided access to other more vulgar terms than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, words that many reasonable people might find upsetting or objectionable," wrote Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "A quick search on Wikitionary.org easily turns up a number of offensive "urban slang" terms that you won't find in popular dictionaries."

Schiller's e-mail this week was in response to a highly critical column published by Gruber two days earlier, in which Gruber said that Apple censored the developer's application and rejected it for including references to common swear words. The Apple executive denied both of those statements.

However, Schiller did say that the best course of action for the developer would probably have been to follow the suggestion of the App Store reviewers to wait for the parental controls on iPhone OS 3.0.

"Apple did not ask the developer to censor any content in Ninjawords, the developer decided to do that themselves in order to get to market faster," Schiller wrote. "Even though the developer chose to censor some terms, there still remained enough vulgar terms that it required a parental control rating of 17+."

Schiller's response is interesting not only because Apple executives rarely comment on anything publicly, but also because it is one of the most prominent examples of the company defending its App Store approval process. The iPhone maker has repeatedly come under fire recently for how it handles the approval of applications for the App Store, from the length of time it takes for software to be reviewed to the availability of promotional codes

Apple is even under investigation from the Federal Communications Commission for its rejection of the Google Voice software, as well as other third-party applications that utilized Google's service. One such program that was removed from the App Store has been re-released for free by the developer on hacked iPhones.