The First Rule Of Developing For The iPhone Is: You Do Not Talk About Developing For The iPhone

from the one-sided-user-agreements dept

We’ve certainly covered many different practices by Apple that harm its developers, from arbitrarily choosing what gets approved to arbitrarily shutting down apps with little or no explanation. Now, the EFF has used a Freedom of Information Act request to NASA (who recently released an iPhone app) to get a look at the amazingly one-sided agreement that Apple forces developers to sign. The reason that the EFF was forced to file an FOIA request to see and post the document is that part of the agreement itself is that you won’t make any “public statements” about the agreement itself, a la fight club.

As the EFF notes, this is an incredibly one-sided document, which isn’t all that surprising, given Apple’s standard operating procedures. And while Apple remains a giant player in the market, many developers will just suck it up and accept it. But Apple may find, over the long term, that this comes back to bite them in some pretty serious ways. Treating your developers — the people who really make your platform valuable — like crap means that they’ll be ready to jump to other platforms as they become viable. Perhaps Steve Jobs believes that Apple can keep innovating ahead of the curve far enough that demand will remain ridiculously high for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s definitely a high wire act for the company, who could face serious developer defections if an alternative platform becomes really viable.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “The First Rule Of Developing For The iPhone Is: You Do Not Talk About Developing For The iPhone”

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Freedom says:

Apple is the pretty girl...

Okay, maybe I hit my head in childhood or have some serious mental issues… HOWEVER it sure seems like Apple is that ‘pretty girl’ we all knew at one time that treated us wrong. It didn’t matter though because we were hormone intoxicated with her beauty and too stupid to know better.

Eventually we wised up though and noticed their were other fish in the sea that would treat us better and offered the same (cough) functionality. Of course, if you are Apple, then you patent breasts so none of the other girls can be as fun to (again cough) …


Ima Fish (profile) says:

From the EFF’s post:

If Apple’s mobile devices are the future of computing, you can expect that future to be one with more limits on innovation and competition than the PC era that came before. It’s frustrating to see Apple, the original pioneer in generative computing, putting shackles on the market it leads.

So the infamous 1984 advertisement was actually brilliant irony?

s/w guy says:

It's beyond crazy

We have a s/w product that runs on BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile and wanted to create the same tool for the iPhone. After looking at the Apple developer terms, our lawyers determined that we couldn’t take the risk of the same developers that work on the other platforms creating the iPhone app due to the crazy restrictive legal restrictions. I don’t have the contract in front of me, but it was regarding what the developer may inadvertently learn about the iPhone platform and then applying it to the non-Apple versions.

To create a clear separation, our legal team insists on ‘parachuting in’ a developer from a different department just for the iPhone version…

This is a bizarre way to function.

Michael Ho (profile) says:

Re: It's about users

Right on, Ryan!

At the end of the day, Apple wants to make a profitable business. If it can do so with closed platforms, then it will. If the developer audience somehow revolts against these NDAs, then Apple will probably change its terms. But until that happens, it doesn’t seem likely — especially given that the secrecy that Apple requires sometimes generates more interest in its upcoming features.

It’s really about fashion. If Apple were forced to tell everyone what the “new black” would be this Fall, it’s products wouldn’t have the same heightened demand. Apple’s developers should know this… and play along if they want to benefit from the same “reality distortion field” that gets created.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: It's about users

“As long as the iPhone/iPad continue to have a large user base, it only makes good business sense for me to do whatever I need to do to make my product accessible to that user base.”

Perhaps it does for you, but not for me. I took a good, hard look at the agreement and decided that iPhone development was not anywhere near profitable enough to warrant the cost and risk of entering into that agreement.

The iPhone is not the largest market in the space. It does have the most rabid (which means loyal and willing to put up with absurd pricing) user base, but that’s not something I’m willing to base my business on. So this is one developer who bailed, sorta (can you “bail” if you were unwilling to develop that first app?)

Your mileage may vary, naturally, but I know first-hand that there are a large number of developers who did the cost/benefit analysis and determined that it was not favorable. I am not alone.

Brooks (profile) says:

I agree with the overall sentiment, but it’s important to understand why Apple thinks they can get away with this kind of thing (and why they are probably right).

Apple is 100% focused on consumer value. Anything that devalues the platform in consumers’ eyes must go, even if it means hurting developers. Think about it: this is the exact opposite of what made Microsoft successful in the 90’s. Microsoft focused on making the platforms attractive to developers, and trusting that customers would follow a thriving development ecosystem.

Apple is betting that other platforms, like Android, will become so full of junk apps, security threats, porn, and generally low quality development work that it will drive consumers to Apple’s offerings, and therefore make the platforms attractive to “real” developers.

I’m a FOSS guy myself and I think it’s probably a mistake on Apple’s part. I expect Google to make efforts to separate wheat from chaff in the Android market, and for third parties to help. But it’s not a foregone conclusion that that will work.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not many differences between Android and iPhone

To be clear, Google is no different in most key areas-

“A ban on public statements, forbidding developers to speak about the agreement.”

On Android, you can talk about Android all you want. They need the press.

“Apps made with the iPhone software development kit can only be distributed through the App Store, meaning rejected apps can’t be served through the underground app store Cydia, for instance.”

Yup, distribute away, if you know how.

“Apple indemnifies itself against developer liability surpassing $50, meaning if developers get sued, Apple will be liable for no more than $50 in damages.”

Now, Google pushes all liability to the developers. You screw someone with your app, and the individual can come after you the developer.

“No reverse engineering, or enabling others to reverse-engineer, the iPhone SDK.”

Same with Android. (3.3 in License)

“No messing with Apple products. That means no apps that enable modifying or hacking Apple products are allowed.”

Same with Android. You mess with their apps and they can revoke.

“Apple can “revoke digital certification of any of Your Applications at any time.” No surprise there: Your app can be pulled even if it’s already been approved, which we’ve already seen happen a number of times.”

Same with Android, section 7.2 of their agreement means they can pull your app from the Android market.

Mark Murphy (profile) says:

Re: Not many differences between Android and iPhone

To be clear, Google is no different in most key areas-

To be clear, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

On Android, you can talk about Android all you want.

Score: Android=1, Apple=0

Yup, distribute away, if you know how.

It’s easier and quicker than distributing for iPhone. Even easier-er and even quicker-er if you just distribute it yourself off your Web site, which iPhone does not support. Score: Android=2, Apple=0

Now, Google pushes all liability to the developers. You screw someone with your app, and the individual can come after you the developer.

Apple is not indemnifying developers — they, like Google, push liability to the developers. Apple is saying that if they are declared jointly liable, they owe $50 max. On the scale of your average lawsuit, $50 is nothing, so these are roughly net. Score remains: Android=2, Apple=0

Same with Android. (3.3 in License)

Except that the code for the SDK is all open source, so you do not need to reverse engineer anything. Score: Android=3, Apple=0

Same with Android. You mess with their apps and they can revoke.

There is no clause in the Developer Agreement to that effect. You mess with their online services, and they can revoke. Furthermore, you don’t need to agree even to that to build apps, by rolling an SDK out of the open source repo. Score: Android=4, Apple=0

Same with Android, section 7.2 of their agreement means they can pull your app from the Android market.

Except that you do not have to distribute through the Android Market. Unlike iPhone, you can distribute your app in other ways (Web site, other markets, install from SD card, etc.). Score: Android=5, Apple=0

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not many differences between Android and iPhone

I’m just wondering if you realize that you agree with me on all the issues, you just added your own snazzy comment on why it benefits Android.

Except the last point. SD Cards are super important these days. After all, putting an app on a SD card which you take out, and borrow to a friend’s is real important for instant gratification. Telling someone where to get an app is just too difficult anyway.

Besides, they are probably lazy, and it’s your job as a friend to pick up their slack.

Just make sure you get your SD card back after they:

1.) Take your SD card, try the app in their phone and like it.
2.) Take your SD card out and look for the broken SD to USB adapter.
4.) Copy the app over to their computer.
5.) Sync their Android with the computer.
6.) Look for the app on the phone after the computer says it’s synced.
7.) Swear a bit because the app didn’t copy over.
8.) Try re-syncing again with the computer.
9.) It sync-ed this time but there’s a missing dll system file.
10) Try re-syncing it again.
11) Realize the app won’t work for some strange reason.
12) Look for THEIR SD card while yours falls on the floor.
13) Realize that they lost your SD card.
14) Buy you a replacement SD card.
15) Find the SD card 6 months later and they realize you had some interesting pictures on it.
16) Enjoy getting blackmailed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not many differences between Android and iPhone

But the differences you can make android applications and sell them wherever you want. You cannot modify Google’s proprietary applications, but those are the intellectual properties of google. You can however create core applications that can be used to replace built in applications. You can also modify the operating system and its interface. Although selling on the market is slightly closed, there are many other paths you can take. And that is why android is significantly more open.


all of them can bugger off

its time we started saying NO to stupidity and greed.

technology is supposed ot make life cheaper not enslave you or restrict you or be more expensive. I wonder who well the economy of the world would be without these toys, YES TOYS.

you don’t need one to live.
you dont need one to work.

but your soooo cool when you have one. LOL we’re laughing at you now….

Anonymous Coward says:

The only way us developers will move in droves to another platform is if a) there exists a large or fast growing segment of smartphone users b) there is money to be made.

Many of us won’t make our decisions on what platform to use based on our own lofty ideals. Some will, more power to them.

In a perfect world I’d like to focus on android, for example, but the user base doesn’t yet justify my effort in that area. I certainly don’t care for the paranoid kung fu grip of old fart Jobs, but it is what it is…for now.

Chris (profile) says:

I would like to believe Apple jumped the shark once it started suing over innovating (e.g. the whole Android/HTC lawsuit saga). In reality (perhaps being too cynical), Apple is just another big evil corporation that will continue to make big profits off from the naive public.

I agree that it’s important to have some strict app-development rules to protect the ecosystem they’ve built, but the whole agreement is so lop-sided it’s ridiculous. It’s kind of amazing what companies can get away with now … I never thought it;’d be so … bad!

CrushU says:


Odd, the link to the EFF site doesn’t seem to load for me here at work. Maybe it’s just the wonky firewall they got going.

I’m actually going to be taking a mobile app development course over the Fall. The college WAS going to use the iPhone, except Apple’s rules and restrictions for doing such were… Draconian. (There needed to be a sealed computer lab that would need the prof in the lab whenever students were in it. Or something to that effect.)

So they’ll use the Android instead.

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