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Cartoonist wins Pulitzer, sudden respect from Apple

Frustrated because Apple rejected your iPhone application and looking for a surefire approach for earning App Store approval? The answer is simple: Win a Pulitzer Prize. It worked for SFGate.com’s Mark Fiore, who last week became the first online-only editorial cartoonist to claim Pulitzer honors. A day following his win, Fiore told the Nieman Journalism Lab that in December, Apple turned down his NewsToons app for iPhone, contending his political caricatures include “content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states: ‘Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.'”

Fiore said he did not re-submit NewsToons according to Apple’s suggested tweaks, telling The New York Times the process “seemed like it would be so daunting.” But as news of Fiore’s Pulitzer victory and App Store rejection began making the rounds, a red-faced Apple reached out to the cartoonist and encouraged him to submit NewsToons again. Apple customer Robert Williamson even emailed CEO Steve Jobs to chide him for Apple’s handling of the situation, writing “While someone can still view these [cartoons] on the web with no problem, I would like to say that having these and others of their ilk available more widely as apps is a benefit to society. While ridicule might be involved, they it can play an important role in civic discourse–look to the Fool in King Lear, or other similar jesters in a royal court for examples the importance of satire… Editorial cartoons of all stripes should get a pass when it comes to the license agreement with the exception of those that espouse violence.” Jobs soon responded to Williamson’s message, writing “That was a mistake that’s being fixed” (a reply that arrived with a signature line reading “Sent from my iPad,” for what it’s worth).

Despite its happy ending, the Fiore saga is just the latest in a long line of App Store approval absurdities and inconsistencies. Developer outrage continues to grow over Apple’s decision to alter its iPhone developer agreement to mandate that all applications must be written to run directly on the iPhone platform, effectively banning cross-compiler translation tools like Adobe Systems’ new Flash Professional Creative Suite 5–The San Francisco Chronicle reports that after Michigan-based Flash developer John Addis created the Facebook page “I’m with Adobe,” membership swelled to over 8,500 within a week. “[Blocking conversion tools is] the equivalent of Apple rejecting bands from iTunes if they use a PC to mix their CD,” Addis said. “It’s a way of funneling every decision a developer makes through a single company rather than letting the market compete.”

But at least for now, the development community remains overwhelmingly positive about the iPhone opportunity. Eighty one percent of mobile software developers are either creating applications for the iPhone platform or planning to do so according to a new survey conducted by research firm Ovum, and it seems like a safe bet that even the Adobe Flash debacle isn’t enough to drive developers away in significant numbers. No wonder Apple rejected NewsToons the first time around–who needs satire when you’re already laughing all the way to the bank? –Jason

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