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Developers working around iPhone SDK restrictions

updated 01:30 pm EDT, Wed August 27, 2008

Devs confront iPhone SDK

Developers are finding ways to cope with the harsh restrictions of Apple's iPhone SDK, writes the LA Times. The terms of the SDK include a strict non-disclosure agreement, which has generally been interpreted to mean that developers cannot discuss the SDK tools with people outside of an app's creative team, whether through e-mail, blogs, discussion boards or conferences. "We can't talk about our problems," says Jeffrey Long, a developer working on a satellite radio app. "At the same time, we can't talk about the problems we've fixed."

The problem is said to extend to writers, some of whom have already completed guides for the SDK, having mistakenly anticipated a removal of the NDA following July 11th. "This incredible top-down control is not having a good effect on the developer community," comments Erica Sadun, writer of the unpublished iPhone Developer's Cookbook.

To avoid any legal threats, some people are said to be paying each other $1, and classifying themselves as "sub-contractors" to help their peers. Some other developers have decided to risk a confrontation with Apple, such as WordPress, which has published code as a part of its open-source policy. Apple has made no comment on the group's actions.




by MacNN Staff

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  1. icewing

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    why heavy restrictions?

    Is Apple only trying to protect what they've created? i.e., they created this amazing SDK...is this to prevent competitors from ripping it off and copying it for their platform? Any other ideas?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Re: why

    Can't be due to prevent being ripped off, as anyone can get the SDK, including those who would rip you off (and if you were someone who would rip Apple off, I don't think an NDA would stop you, since you apparently don't care about IP anyway).

    The only reasons I can come up with is that Apple forgot to release it (but they would've been reminded by now), or they are afraid there's some issues in the SDK (security, stability, quality, etc) that they want to try to keep as secret as possible (because reporters wouldn't be able to report it without someone breaking an NDA, and then there's lawsuits and stuff...)

  1. shawnce

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +2

    Legal protection & patent

    The SDK is still young and evolving waiting on likely a Sept. release of new firmware before the feature set will be considered finalized enough to lift the current NDA. Folks like to sue Apple if it specifies something at one point and they are removed at a later point, etc.

    Additionally they are trying to maintain some legal "attack" capabilities if aspects of the still evolving SDK are picked up by competitors (Android comes to mind).

    Finally ... and likely the main reason ... Apple is trying to audit all they have done for the iPhone SDK and ensure they have started the patent process for all things of worth. Having an NDA in place prevents the patent window clock from starting to tick (at least in some situations and patent locals)

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +5

    Re: no

    What is happening with the more tightened control over the phone is that they probably don't want every tom - d*** - and harry thinking it is simply another computer to alter as the user sees fit.

    That makes no sense at all. If you really want to make sure no one screws up their phones with the addition of some new app, you allow developers to communicate.

    No 'real' developer wants to build an app that will crash and burn. Its bad for business. By keeping the NDA, they basically force each programmer to find the problems and develop the workarounds, as opposed to someone figuring it out, posting the info, and then everyone knowing what needs to be done.

    As for any tom d*** and harry putting apps on their phones and bricking them or something, how exactly would that happen? Apple controls what goes on the phone. You can't just use the SDK to make a bunch of apps, put them on your phone, and watch things crash (well, unless you pay the $99, but then its just your phone).

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Re: legal protection

    Folks like to sue Apple if it specifies something at one point and they are removed at a later point, etc.

    Um, an NDA isn't going to prevent someone from suing Apple in this case.

    And I don't recall Apple, or anyone, being sued because they removed or changed an API in their OS.

    Additionally they are trying to maintain some legal "attack" capabilities if aspects of the still evolving SDK are picked up by competitors (Android comes to mind).

    So I take it you believe that people should be able to patent software and sue people who do something like it? Because most people here tend to think that's a bad idea.

    And an SDK isn't something you start suing over, anyway. Its a freakin' API, for goodness sakes (and pointed out above that its just like the one for the mac OS, give or take).

    Finally ... and likely the main reason ... Apple is trying to audit all they have done for the iPhone SDK and ensure they have started the patent process for all things of worth. Having an NDA in place prevents the patent window clock from starting to tick (at least in some situations and patent locals)

    Great, now Apple will be suing others over patent infringement over interfaces and APIs. Man, sounds a little draconian.

  1. jpellino

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    it's a freaking NDA.

    hardly new. get over it.

  1. chadpengar

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -2

    re: testudo

    Obviously not someone who develops software for a living. The only people I know who think all SW patents are dumb or bogus are the Stallman / Gnu / FSF / Linuxhead freaks.

    SW patents have been abused and need to be reformed but are in general a good idea. A software discovery of a new mechanism to do something is as valid as one in a machine form. It does need to be reformed as there are simple "obvious" things which should not be afforded SW patent protection.

    The patents that ARE dumb are the "business process" patents and that sort of thing. One-click was not a SW patent -- it was a business process patent.

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