Who is in charge of Developer Relations?

UPDATE 2021-03-22: Ron Okamoto has retired:

Apple Inc.’s executive in charge of App Store developer relations retired and the role has been taken over by a key marketing executive, according to people familiar with the matter.


Okamoto’s status as a former employee was disclosed Friday in a witness list provided by Apple to the court for its upcoming trial versus Fortnite developer Epic Games Inc.


His role has been filled by Susan Prescott, a respected Apple marketing executive who also oversees marketing for Apple’s own apps, services and enterprise initiatives.

(h/t Jeff Johnson)

After reading Manton Reece's blog post about his experiences with the Mac App Store, I realized I did not know who Apple's VP of Developer Relations is. Manton says that to him it seems like nobody's in charge, which made me wonder who is in charge. After some Googling I found out it's Ron Okamoto, formerly of Adobe, hired in 2001 to replace Clent Richardson.

I find it odd that Okamoto is so little known and never discussed. The only recent mentions of him that turned up in Google were about his letter to developers regarding the Mac OS X Download site. He said it would start directing users to the Mac App Store starting January 6. (Note: as of this writing the site still offers direct downloads.)

I would guess the VP of Developer Relations has at least the following responsibilities (in no particular order, and I'm probably wrong about some of them):

  • developer.apple.com in general, including code samples and site design
  • developer registration
  • app submissions, approvals, and rejections
  • the provisioning process for apps to get on the App Store (and now Mac App Store)
  • the documentation group
  • bugreport.apple.com (aka Radar)
  • Technical Support Incidents
  • relationships with high-profile developers
  • WWDC
  • worldwide Tech Talk days
  • John Geleynse's team (Technology Evangelism) and Geleynse himself (User Experience Evangelist) [UPDATE, 2012-05-11: I've learned a bit more about Geleynse.]
  • devforums.apple.com
  • lists.apple.com (almost all the lists are developer-oriented)

That's a lot of territory, and Okamoto's had the job for ten years. Why haven't all the developers who have been angry about one thing or another been angry at him? Conversely, why hasn't he gotten credit for the things that have gone well? Why has Phil Schiller said more in public about iPhone app rejections than Okamoto? Why doesn't Okamoto do interviews or appear at public events?

Maybe Apple only puts people who are SVP's or higher in the spotlight. The spotlight is a harsh place and maybe Okamoto's time is better spent actually managing the people who report to him. Maybe developers, if they even know who he is, aren't angry at him because they feel he's only implementing policies set from above.

Anyway, I'd like to know more about him.

Here's the press release Apple issued when he was hired:

CUPERTINO, California—April 30, 2001—Apple® today announced that Ron Okamoto has joined Apple as vice president of Developer Relations, reporting to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

“We are thrilled to have Ron leading our developer relations team,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Ron’s firsthand experience at two successful Mac developers will help Apple to become an even better partner for our third party developers.”

Okamoto was previously vice president of Product Management and Marketing for graphics products at Adobe Systems, where he was responsible for the worldwide marketing and management of many award-winning products including Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects. Prior to joining Adobe, Okamoto was director of Product Marketing at Macromedia, Inc. Okamoto holds a bachelors of science degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California.

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