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Apple Goes a Little Less Medieval on Devs

Apple Goes a Little Less Medieval on Devs

Apple has evidently decided not to bite the hands that feed its App Store. The company has done an about-face, abolishing the requirement for application developers to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of offering their products for sale. The switcheroo might have been prompted by the implicit threat that unhappy iPhone devs might defect to Android, Google's open mobile platform.

In a surprise move, Apple has relented in its insistence that third-party application developers for the wildly popular iPhone sign a nondisclosure agreement before their applications can be made available for download on the iPhone App Store.

The decision follows sharp criticism on developer blogs and in online technology publications from software developers who want to create applications for the iPhone.

Apple dropped the NDA because it was too burdensome for developers and others, according to a statement on the company Web site.

Apple officials could not be reached for comment.

The iPhone App Store

The iPhone App Store is nothing more than a central location for iPhone owners to download new applications such as games, ringtones, location-based services and three-dimensional graphics for their iPhone handsets.

Many of the applications available for download on the site are created by developers who do not work for Apple. Last year, Apple made a US$99 software development kit available for outside developers to design applications for the iPhone.

The store has garnered serious support from the venture capital community. In March, a blue chip venture capital fund in Silicon Valley -- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers -- announced the iFund, a $100 million venture fund earmarked for investment in iPhone applications.

Currently, there are about 4,000 applications available for the iPhone, a slick, touch-screen mobile phone, music player and high-speed Internet device available in the U.S. only through AT&T. The iPhone retails for between $200 and $300 with a contract.

For every third-party application sold on the iPhone App Store, developers get a 70 percent cut of sales.

Dissension in the Ranks

Problems between Apple and third-party iPhone app developers began to brew in mid-September when the blogosphere came alive with reports that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company forbade developers from discussing the reasons for which an iPhone application had been rejected.

"Many developers were upset with the secrecy of the iPhone app development process," Chris Hazelton, an analyst at The 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld. "When the App Store went live, some apps were approved, but some were also taken down."

One such application was PhoneSaber, an application that makes the iPhone whir like a lightsaber from "Star Wars" when users wave it around.

"[Apple] took PhoneSaber down because there was an infringement of a trademark," Hazelton said. "Then, in late September, it went back up -- but no one knows how that process worked."

On Wednesday, Apple lifted its NDA requirement on released applications, a move Hazelton said is an attempt to placate the development community.

"You have to sort of cater to them to make sure they're happy," he said, "and so they will continue to develop applications for you."


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