Apple lifts iPhone NDA to dull Android's edge

Apple lifts iPhone NDA to dull Android's edge

Summary: 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. ...


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.

Topics: iPhone, Android, Apple, CXO, Google, Mobility, IT Employment

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • Great to see Google forcing Apple to be more open. Hopefully Apple will be

    forced to also unlock the applications so you do NOT need Apples approval to offer an application.
    • Admit it....

      ... you have a set of pom-poms and a cute little outfit with a big "G" on the chest don't you? :)
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • I hope not....

      Apple's biggest advantage over the others is it's control. If
      you free up Apple to all invaders you get bad apps into the
      mix then the iPhone system will be prone to unwanted
      performance hits. Now "IF" Apple is lucky the app maker
      will be blamed not Apple or the iPhone. However knowing
      human beings and their nature that won't always be the
      case. So the Apple brand and the iPhone rep will suffer.

      Besides I'm not sure if this is a reaction to Google. AFter
      all from what I am reading the App store is a stunning
      success and the iPhone is selling better than expected.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • "So the Apple brand and the iPhone rep will suffer."

        the braND HAS suffered already with iPhone unreliability - 3G dropping calls etc, simple things like no cut and paste, NDAs, extreme control freakery, not allowing competitor apps to Apple;s own version, etc etc. The only people that do not see this as a bad thing are the vanity-challenged that need a badge to worship.

        If you load a bad app onto your iphone then unistall it (or is that another limitation).

        They are just like MS as they have an insecurity about their own ability to compete with "open", lock-down and lock-in is their only response.
        • Dude! Have you seen the iPhone 3G sales figures?

          And those of the App Store? Suffering rep is HARDLY
          Apples iPhone problem it's keep up with demand.

          There are already thousands of third party Apps for the
          iPhone on the store sight and growing so where is Apple's
          fear again about competition. Besides why would Apple
          fear these apps Apple gets a piece of the action or the
          help generate iPhone buzz and sales. You confuse me

          Oh yeah you can easily remove an app. However the
          classic problem is this. You load an app but the problem
          does not immediately become apparent the fist few times
          you use the app it works fine as far as you know. However
          the phone itself down the road starts having strange
          glithces. You try to talk you your friends who also own
          iPhones and they give you suggestions none of witch work
          because the syptoms don't point to that app you
          downloaded and have used weeks earlier. Your glitches
          continue and you upgrade your iPhone OS...No good. You
          go on web sites. You go to the Apple store and bitch. As
          it turns out a lot of people are in line bitching about this
          than and the other thing that Apple has to figure out, and
          explain to the people it was not the iPhone but X who
          made Y software. You call X but they say it's Apple or the
          iPhone but not them.

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
          • Fingerpointing

            So Jim,
            How did you resolve this problem you had?
          • In this case it was but an example....

            However I've seen this over my many years of computer
            support and its a matter of trial and error till you hit on to
            the one that works. Evan if a given vendor swears up and
            down it can't be them.. NEVER take their word for it.
            However it really gets hinky when it turns out the be like a
            third app that confilcts with your new app and or the
            combination of the new app and the given systems OS.
            Then you are in hades.

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
    • Google's business position good for us all

      Yeah, I'm really glad for how Google has positioned itself. It is to their advantage to promote openness and interoperability since they are just a software and services company and don't have investment in hardware. This is good for us all. I hope they continue to turn around the wireless industry.
      • But what if Googles is mixed with blank hardware?

        And blank is not a good word..:P

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
  • RE: Apple lifts iPhone NDA to dull Android's edge

    Apple will only be as open as they need to be. Too bad a company like Danger, who makes the T-Mobile Sidekick and now owned by Microsoft, can't do the same thing. I plan to get an Android phone once other companies roll them out other than just T-Mobile.
    • You are not locked to T-Mobile.

      Other devices are certainly coming down the pipe, however, if you want the one T-Mobile has, you are free to pay the non subsidized price and use it on any compatible network. This is per T-Mobile's CEO. To me, that seems like a very reasonable thing.
      [B]More interestingly, buyers would be able to have access to a "contract free" G1 (with a price point of $399), and could unlock the device with T-Mobile's blessing after 90 days.[/B]

      Now, price, having to wait 90 days, that is entirely up to you. You would have to admit, however, that it is nice to know that they won't actively try to brick your phone if you (quite legally mind you) unlock your phone.

  • RE: Apple lifts iPhone NDA to dull Android's edge

    hrpuffnstuff said it right on. Apple is only going to be as open as they have to be to keep their devoteees. Don't expect them to unrelent on their hawkish monitoring and favoritism on the AppStore though.
  • RE: Apple lifts iPhone NDA to dull Android's edge

    Presumably you have a choice of which apps to add to your "phone" (now so much more) just like you have the choice with your PC. There will inevitably be a site like with user ratings, editor reviews, "Google Approved" labels, etc. This is the result of user input, which is the whole point. No one rates an iPhone app now because there's no point, and no options. Why rate a monopolized product, just complain or cheer it. Like many have said, Andriod's not an iPhone killer, its a new way of adding functionality and personalization. That's like saying electric car engines will replace cars. With Mac's appeal to creative types and trendy professionals, its about time they took this half-step! I hope someone hacks the iPhone to support Android, then we can all be perfectly happy:)