Windows Phone 7 Marketplace issues surface with arbitrary certification restrictions

Microsoft forced this developer to change the name of his app, breaking updates for existing owners.

The problem with having humans in charge if the certification process for Windows Phone 7 apps is that a developer can run into a particularly pedantic or even misguided certifier that can cause them all kind of problems.

Andrew Hamblin, the developer of WPTumblr ran into just this issue, with his excellent app having an update blocked due to an apparent naming issue which had not cropped up the other 3 times the app and its updates were presented for certification.

On submitting the app for its 4th update the app suddenly failed certification due to violating Microsoft’s content policy. Andrew initially thought this was due to the use of the name Tumblr, but it turned out the issue was much more bizarre.

After waiting quite a while for a clarification, he eventually received an e-mail from Microsoft which read:

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for your patience. Your application failed policy because of its title “WPTumblr” because the team felt it might convey that it was an officially Microsoft sanctioned product. Rather, a name like “xx for Windows Phone 7” is generally permissible If you alter the title, please resubmit the app and it will be re-considered for policy.

Thank you again, and we look forward to your updated app.

Apparently Microsoft is now claiming the initials WP as a reserved word, which is rather odd, as none of their apps have the prefix, suggesting it may just be a certifier having a bad day.

The issue forced Andrew to change the name of the app, which had the knock-on effect of breaking updates for all the old purchasers, and of course losing all the publicity the app garnered for being named an Essential WP7 App by Engadget.

A rather unhappy Andrew writes:

So Microsoft has the same sensitivity to people prefacing things with “WP” as Apple has for people prefacing things with “i”…
So I have renamed the app to TumbleBee, but this means that people who have already purchased WPTumblr will not be eligible for upgrades unless they repurchase the new app.

So… Inconsistent application of the certification requirements, potentially bad user experience, and a strange assumption that prefacing something with “WP” will cause people to think Microsoft wrote it.

I had hoped Microsoft could avoid the arbitrary application of policy which caused so much scandal in the iPhone app store, but it seems the certifiers will continue to generate column inches no matter which company they work for. Hopefully Microsoft will see some sense and install a fair appeals process and stop damaging both the developer and use experience in this way.