Archive for July, 2009

Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Dear Mr. Bezos,

Recently we had to remove our iPhone and iPod Touch program Pocketpedia from the iTunes App Store because it synced Amazon information from our desktop applications to a mobile device and also allowed the Amazon catalog to be searched from a mobile device. The Amazon Product Advertising API provides reliable access to a wealth of information that benefits my company as a source of data and your company by encouraging more sales. We are unable to find a reason why this API service should explicitly exclude use on mobile devices.

Let me tell you a bit about our applications, in the hopes of changing your mind. The Pedia programs (DVDpedia, Bookpedia, CDpedia and Gamepedia) are used to build personal media catalogs. Users create a list of items they own, those that they have lent out and those they wish to buy in the future. It allows them to get organized and keep track of both past and future purchases. As you can appreciate, having their data on the go is a great reference and convenience.

It’s our belief that Pocketpedia does in no way compete with Amazon Mobile or SnapTell (which you recently acquired). They serve different markets: Pocketpedia is a home reference application while yours are shopping applications. Even if they did compete I don’t see a reason to suppress them as the winner will always be Amazon selling the final product. And iPhone users can only benefit from more options in the App Store. Of course you’re in a better position to decide what’s best for Amazon but from the outside the clauses excluding mobile devices seem like a losing situation for all: Amazon, customers and third-party developers.

Both clauses mention that written approval can be obtained to use the Amazon data on a mobile device, yet I can’t find a single app that has received this approval. In the hopes of positive changes at Amazon I would like to suggest that these clauses be dropped. If this is not possible, I formally request that Bruji as well as our competitor Delicious Monster (who have also run afoul of the mobile clause) be given permission to sync Amazon data to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Moreover, if Amazon is feeling kind, we also request the use of the Product Advertising API directly on the iPhone to search and add new items.

I write this as an open letter because getting a meaningful conversation going with Amazon has been impossible for both my customers and me. Your support system does not allow replies to emails sent directly from your Associates Account Specialist. Messages filled out in the Amazon contact page only get canned responses without explanations. The Amazon customer service has lost its touch in the last few years but more worrying is that Amazon has become increasingly closed, controlling and unfriendly. I know that our users have been writing to Amazon in the past week to register their dismay about the loss of Pocketpedia and I would like to be able to give them positive news thanks to their efforts.

Hoping for change,
Conor Dearden

Bye-bye Pocketpedia – Hello 4.5.1

Friday, July 17th, 2009

When Amazon forced us to pull Pocketpedia from the App Store this morning they also killed our access key to the Amazon Web Services which affects our desktop Pedias since the programs all use the same key. Silly us, we should have used a different key. But we didn’t forsee that mobile app access might become a problem when we released Pocketpedia over a year ago.

This means the Amazon search does not work on any Pedia program other than the latest version, 4.5.1. So make sure you are running this latest version of the Pedias to avoid any trouble with the Amazon search. (Use the built-in ‘Check for Updates’ command found under the program menu to check you’re up to date.)

The only upside to all this is that by August 15th we would have had to change the Amazon access key anyway because Amazon’s new policy of forcing all requests to carry a signature is going to take effect on that day. Those users still running version 3.6 because of Panther and Jaguar compatibility would have had no Amazon search from that day on which is why we tried to delay adding a new key for as long as possible.

Bye bye Pocketpedia

Friday, July 17th, 2009

This morning we received an email from Amazon requesting the immediate removal of Pocketpedia from the App Store since the program is in violation of their license agreement. (A clause we’re pretty sure didn’t exist when Pocketpedia launched with the App Store in June last year but TOSBack only tracks Kindle and MP3 music service terms of use.)

We’ve logged a request with Amazon that Pocketpedia be exempt from the mobile clause (this is stated as a possibility in the license agreement) but it seems others have tried this before and were shot down so we’re not holding our breath for a favourable response. Hopefully the future will bring a positive change in their policy and we can all go on competing in the App Store.

They also informed us that our access key to the Amazon web services has been turned off which would mean that the desktop Pedias would not be able to query Amazon for data anymore. So far, they seem to have been kind enough to leave the access key live and the searches should continue to work fine in the Pedias (UPDATE: Amazon has indeed killed our access key and the desktop Pedias are not able to return Amazon searches anymore. Download the latest version, 4.5.1, to fix the problem.) but we’re ready for an immediate update if new access keys are required. We have requested all keys be re-activated as soon as possible since your access to data is one of our topmost concerns.

To say goodbye to Pocketpedia we put together a small sample (it’s quite a long list) of our favorite reviews:

Dvdpedia is one of my favorite apps. It’s great to be able to take that software on the go with softpedia. Thank you for this great free app!

This is an awesome app! My only suggestion is to add more editting ability like being able to edit the picture and the content

Just what I’ve wanted — a way to easily sync my iPhone to a database of my books, and books that I’ve referenced at the University’s library. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

Finally a way to get to my list of dvd’s and cd’s on the run.  This app allows you to carry with you all of the media info including the cover (which is pretty nice).

I love this app!  I can’t believe that it’s free!

This app is fantastic! I used to use Notes on my iPhone as a way of keeping track of wishlists among other things. No more of that! This is exactly what I need. Great job on this one.

Works absolutely flawless and it’s FREE! It shows all my DVD’s and all the albums I have them in, just like on my mac.

You simply made my day. Just when I was trying to figure out how to take my DVD library info on the road (save to PDF and use iStorage to get it from iDisk), I stumbled over this.

I love this app. Perfect to arrange all my stuff, because I’m sort of OCD like that. It would be great if you could also have sections for electronics, furniture, etc.

Syncing worked perfectly on the first shot.  Consider me completely satisfied.

What a brilliant little app. Works well. Should be paid for i think!

This app does exactly what it says it does and does it well. Very easy to use and I will be using it a lot! Download now!

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for future versions.

We had a great update ready to go as those of you active on our forum know. Pocketpedia is a fantastic little app and we’re very upset that we had to pull it like that. Hopefully someday it will be able to make a comeback to the App Store (and if it does we promise to include an icon without transparency).

UPDATE: Thank you for all your support and kind words and especially for letting Amazon know how you feel about Pocketpedia being pulled. Do keep writing to them!