There are plenty of hurdles between a good idea and App Store success; even after your killer app hits the virtual shelves, the challenges of discoverability and competitors sandbagging your app with Astroturfed bad reviews add up to plenty of headaches. Still, once past the biggest stumbling block -- Apple giving a thumbs up or thumbs down -- things should get easier, right?
Unfortunately, some intriguing apps end up in approval limbo, the stranded state between all-clear and no-thanks that's reserved for some of the most innovative and paradigm-busting apps; the apps that make Apple go "Hmm..." and force the app approval team to exercise the pocket veto. Without a clear rejection (telling the dev what can be fixed), there's nothing to do but wait.
The most high-profile limbo case is Google Voice, which as far as we know is still being reviewed by Apple's team more than a year after it was submitted. The latest is Briefs, a well-regarded app prototyping tool which may be running afoul of the no-interpreted-code ban in section 3.3.2 of Apple's developer agreement, despite the assertion that Briefs doesn't work in a way that's forbidden by Apple's rules. Even though developer Rob Rhyne made a cogent case to Apple's team on the merits, and even with some high-level support from contacts made at WWDC, Briefs remains unapproved and unrejected.
Rather than wait indefinitely with his 1.0 growing stale, Rhyne has decided to offer the existing version as open source, which iPhone developers can compile and install on their testing devices. Rob's colleague Jeff Lamarche at Martian Craft voices his frustration here.
In many ways, this could be an App Store success story: developer dedication and innovation, open lines of communication between indies and Apple, an open source tool that can improve app development for scores of coders. The only problem is that darned silent treatment, and the missing timeline for escalation. If an app can't make it on the store, it seems the least Apple ought to do is say so and say why.