After writing about the removal of the app from the iTunes store, I received a lot of comments and emails---some from within the special needs community, some from other AAC users/therapists, and many from within the tech community. One of the refrains that I heard from the tech community was negativity about Apple’s total control of their devices---once something is out of the iTunes store, there’s no way to buy it for an iPad. “You wouldn’t have this problem if the developers had designed the app for Android,” I heard. And, apparently, the Speak for Yourself team heard the same thing.
And so, two weeks ago, Speak for Yourself released a version of the app for Android devices. It went up in Google Play, which (as I understand it) is kind of the big, go-to Android marketplace. While we are still using our iPad copy of the app (due to the availability of a better case for the iPad and a keyguard, which is a necessity for Maya), the presence of the app on Google Play was reassuring---if the iOS6 update this fall messed up our iPad app, we would at least have an option to fall back on (not an ideal option, but an option). We had a safety net.
A few days ago, Google Play removed the app from their store, citing the court proceedings.
By now it seems that I’ve lost the ability to be shaken. I’m not panicked or outraged or up in arms, I’m tired and numb. I’m disappointed . . . in both the plantiffs in this case, who appear to be continuing their efforts to keep this app off the market and therefore out of the hands of nonverbal people who need it, and in the marketplaces who are so quick to pull the take-down trigger, despite the fact that there are no court orders to do so, and no infringement has been proven. Considering the fact that (as I understand it) the majority of patent cases are resolved with some sort of monetary arrangement, I don’t understand why the app needs to be pulled during the litigation.
With an Android app there are multiple marketplaces (besides Google Play) where the app can be offered for sale. However, logic would dictate that if the app appeared in a new store tomorrow, that store would soon get the same take-down request from PRC/SCS. And past experience would imply that these stores will likely comply with that request, despite the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty philosophy that I’m used to hearing about. I guess when money and legal things are involved the modus operandi is to err on the side of being overly cautious. I get it, I guess, but this isn’t an alleged knock-off of Angry Birds, it’s a communication system for people who need it.
The Speak for Yourself team is able to keep the app available by selling the Android version directly through their website. It is up there now, and I would imagine it will remain there unless an actual court order requires it to be taken down.
As for Maya, she will continue to use the iPad (with its case and keyguard), which she knows and loves and is able to use independently, for as long as possible. Her vocabulary continues to grow rapidly, and she delights us with her cleverness and humor.
As for me, I remain hopeful that after this case is resolved the app will be reinstated in the various marketplaces that felt pressured to take it down during the litigation. I continue to share the news of this case not only because of the effect that it has on my family, but because of the larger implications for any families who use an AAC app to communicate.