Shocker: iPhone Developer License Is Really One-Sided


IphoneADOTAS – I love the term “draconion” — it has such a ring to it. Just saying it aloud sends a shiver down the spine. The word references Draco, the first legislator of ancient Athens (and possibly the world), who took the oral laws of the city and wrote them into a codex. His favorite penalty for just about every offense, large or small, was death.

I wonder if Draco liked black mock turtlenecks (tunics?), because Steve Jobs is getting labeled by developers and the tech media as his heir apparent. The latest outrage over Apple’s severity in its third-party dealings has to do with the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has brought to the public eye through clever use of the Freedom of Information Act.

The foundation is shocked — SHOCKED! — to find that developers are forbidden from making public statements about the agreement. The document further commands that products developed with the iPhone SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store and that you can’t sue Apple for damages of more than $50. Dream on if you have any intentions of modifying the iPhone or its SDK.

And as the developers of 5,000 apps witnessed a few weeks ago, Apple has the right to remotely disable your app and remove it from the App Store at any time.

Maybe I’ve had my fill of developer whining since the great app purge, but I couldn’t muster any disbelief at the excerpts from the agreement. Sure the agreement is extremely one-sided, but Fred von Lohman, senior staff attorney for the EFF, notes that most end-user license agreements are. Truly, this “draconion” license agreement is just an extension of Apple’s control issues, exemplified by its closed system.

And having a closed system will eventually hobble it. There’s a reason why most people and businesses use PCs and not Macs — the former have far more flexibility because they’re open sourced. You can do a lot of neato personalization with OS X, but the limits on customization pale in comparison to a PC in terms of both software and hardware.

At the moment no mobile device is a true rival to the iPhone, but it’s got plenty of weak points, number one being that it’s exclusive to a limited, hated carrier (unless it’s true that an iPhone is coming to Verizon). You may be able to do a lot with an iPhone, but due to Apple’s unwillingness to give some power to developers, you’ll eventually be able to do far more on its competitors.

Of course, patience is not a virtue found often in the developer’s world… Which seems odd to me as I find coding requires a fat stack of the stuff.

In other words, mobile software developers can take Apple’s crap and shut their traps or plant their app seeds in an up-and-coming OS, one that’s open and welcoming. Perhaps you’ve heard of this Android thing?

“If Apple wants to be a real leader, it should be fostering innovation and competition, rather than acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord,” comments Fred von Lohman, senior staff attorney for the EFF. That’s precisely why it’s not going to be a leader for much longer.


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