This is either an eerie coincidence or bad news for developers.
TUAW has heard from a number of developers that there’s something amiss in Apple’s App Store approval process for apps that make use of Apple’s in-app purchasing APIs.
As a matter of policy, Apple requires developers to test in-app purchases (IAP) with a test user account before the application in question can be approved. Unfortunately, this test account has been offline for a week now with no word as to why. If you are a developer, you can see the relevant thread on Apple’s own developer forums here.
While this is hopefully an unrelated technical glitch, it’s hard to ignore the latest happenings involving the Lodsys patent trolling case. If you recall, Lodsys is trying to strike up licensing deals with independent app developers alleging that their use of in-app purchasing infringes on Lodsys patents.
Apple is reportedly actively investigating the issue and it will be interesting to see how the company responds, if at all. Apple of course doesn’t want to spook away iOS developers, but if it strikes up a broad licensing deal with Lodsys, it opens the door for even more patent trolls to target individual iOS developers in what’s akin to a mob style shakedown. Hopefully, and we’re not sure how realistic this option is, but it’d be nice to see Apple fund an effort to help invalidate Lodsys’ laughably broad patent that really adds absolutely nothing to any intellectual pursuit.
Ranting aside, we’ll hopefully get some word soon as to whether or not the approval process for apps using in-app purchasing is suspended due to technical issues or whether or not Apple is temporarily suspending those app approvals until it gets a better grasp on the legal issues at hand.