Apple, developers fight over tightening iPhone NDA

Continuing a battle over overly strict confidentiality provisions that started immediately after the release of the first iPhone OS applications, Apple attempted this week to silence developers whose applications were rejected, and consequently incurred the wrath of leading members of the iPhone development community. Almerica, the developer of the recently rejected Podcaster iPhone app, yesterday posted and later removed a blog entry entitled “Apple shuts down Podcaster, Again!” In the entry, Almerica said that Apple had removed its ability to distribute the application using Ad Hoc methods, its only option once Apple had rejected the app for distribution through the App Store. Later in the day, a report noted that Apple has added a non-disclosure statement to all App Store rejection letters, preventing developers from talking about their rejections, an apparent attempt to stop developers from generating post-rejection buzz that could lead to successful widespread Ad Hoc distribution.

Following these disclosures, other developers have angrily called out Apple for what they describe as increasingly contemptuous behavior. Brent Simmons, developer of the RSS reader NetNewsWire for Mac OS X and iPhone, wrote on his blog, “When I read that Apple’s solution to the problem of the negative press around apps being rejected from the App Store was to add an NDA warning, I thought it was satire. It couldn’t be true. But it appears to be true. If so, then someone is making a mistake. This behavior is definitely beneath the company that makes the software and hardware I adore and love developing for.”

Developer Wil Shipley, who writes the software for Delicious Monster, said on his blog, “I have to be clear: it simply will not stand for Apple to prevent applications on the iPhone from competing with Apple’s own applications. Besides chasing away all decent developers, besides hurting their customers by stifling competition and innovation, besides it simply being evil, it will, shortly, be illegal. This kind of behavior is illegal when you hit a certain point in market saturation for your product; Microsoft was slapped for it constantly in the late ‘80s. If the iPhone is the success Apple thinks it will be, they will find themselves the target of a huge class-action lawsuit.”

While it remains unclear as to whether the outcry from developers and users will have any effect on Apple, it’s obvious that developers are becoming increasingly wary of the company’s legal and business practices. Expect further updates as this story continues to develop.

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