Responding to a crescendo of criticism from the developer community, which saw books canceled, long time fans lose enthusiasm, and some calls for defections to Android, Apple finally relented Wednesday:
We have decided to drop the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software. ... The NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone’s success, so we are dropping it for released software. Developers will receive a new agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so.
Before the announcement
Developer frustration had been mounting in recent weeks at Apple's recalcitrance. Craig Hockenberry wrote on September 24th: "I’m feeling ambivalent about developing new applications for the iPhone [and] many of my colleagues are starting to feel the same way." Don Reisinger said iPhone developers should defect to Android, writing: "Unlike Apple's draconian policies, Android is an open platform and Google and the rest won't spend time trying to stop as many third-party developers from producing apps for the platform." The Pragmatic Programmers (Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas) even had to cancel a book they had planned for iPhone development: "It now appears that Apple does not intend to lift the NDA any time soon. Regrettably, this means we are pulling our iPhone book out of production."
After the announcement
The reaction to Apple's decision was swift and positive. Hockenberry bubbled: "'[REDACTED]': Thank God that’s the last time I’m going to type that word for a while." Fraser Speirs wrote: "thanks to Apple for the moves on the NDA. I’m looking to the future of iPhone development with immeasurably more optimism now." The Pragmatic Programmers un-cancelled the iPhone book and Dave wrote in his blog: "After a rocky start, I have to say we've had nothing but help and support from folks in Apple. And eventually the senior management listened to the community and did the right thing."
iPhone development is still not quite as open as Android. Pre-release iPhone software (like upcoming SDKs) cannot be discussed in the open, and Apple still controls the gateway to the iPhone App Store. There are far more books on Android development than there are on iPhone development even though the iPhone has been out over a year longer. But one of the major obstacles to developer collaboration has been lifted, and along with it one of the advantages of Android. For now, iPhone developers and publishers are breathing a big sigh of relief.