Dan Gillmor

Apple's Counterproductive — and Dangerous — iPhone Secrecy and Arrogance

Webmonkey “Maps iPhone App Developers Frustration”:

Apple forces everyone to sign an nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to download the software development kit — the very basic tools needed to start programming for the iPhone. The NDA forbids developers from talking about programming for the iPhone with other like-minded developers. No talking means no community, and you are 100 percent reliant on Apple for all of your development needs. Developers can’t even complain about the NDA under the NDA. Fear of Apple’s wrath gets worse. Once Apple started accepting applications, some apps got through and appeared on the App Store while others did not. It’s not a first come, first served process. There isn’t a thorough vetting process either — some apps get into the store by accident, before they even work. The process seems completely arbitrary.

These are the frustrations that have led some to pursue ad-hoc distribution outside of the Apple App Store. Some developers are also preparing to jump ship and begin coding for Google’s much more open Android mobile OS instead, albeit without the lucrative ecosystem of Apple’s App Store or the volume of potential customers in the iPhone’s user base.

Apple’s arrogance is truly amazing. It’s not content to build an ecosystem; the company wants absolute control over it, too.

Luckily, the folks at the iPhone-dev team, among others, are working hard to delink this control.

All of which makes me, someone who’s currently using an unlocked, jail-broken first-generation iPhone, much more interested in Google’s Android platform than I might have been — and also looking forward to seeing what Nokia does with Symbian, and even wondering if RIM will wake up and make Blackberry a better development platform, too.

Apple does brilliant software. But it’s not the only place where smart people work, contrary to the company’s apparent belief.

Turning its developers into angry critics is simply stupid. The people in Cupertino are acting as if they can get away with this forever. They can’t.

See also Jonathan Zdziarski on “Full Disclosure and why Vendors Hate it” — a must read.