Apple Drops iPhone NDA

apple-dev war

Apple has dropped the NDA covering the iPhone SDK. Developers will now be able to discuss how they develop for the iPhone. This was one of the biggest complaints developers (and technical publishers) had about developing for the platform. Apple posted the following message.

We have decided to drop the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software.

We put the NDA in place because the iPhone OS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don’t steal our work. It has happened before. While we have filed for hundreds of patents on iPhone technology, the NDA added yet another level of protection. We put it in place as one more way to help protect the iPhone from being ripped off by others.

However, 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. Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released.

Thanks to everyone who provided us constructive feedback on this matter.

This is great news. I look forward to the many online tutorials, events (like our own iPhoneLive) and books (like the Prag’s) that will bloom.

I am sure that the developer excitement around open-source and not-NDA’d Android was a factor in the decision making. Hopefully, Apple will listen to more constructive feedback (such as the latest Engadget Cares essay) and start letting apps of all type, even those that compete with their own, be released on the iPhone platform.

(Image courtesy of Jonathan Roher)

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topic: Programming
  • http://bluej100.blogspot.com Braden

    “Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released.”

    Sounds to me like they’re still trying to censor rejection notices.

  • http://example.com sapporo

    “Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released.”

    Sounds to me like they’re talking about unreleased Apple software here, e.g. pre-release versions of iPhone OS. This would mean the iPhone NDA closely matches the Mac NDA in scope.

  • Richard Brantley

    The fact that the first two posts interpret “unreleased” differently speaks volumes about this whole affair.

    My interpretation is the same as Braden’s. They need to clarify the scope.

  • http://www.floatingbones.com FloatingBones

    Gruber has been updating this story in the last week; it’s worthwhile to read his updated blog entry:

    http://daringfireball.net/2008/09/app_store_rejections

    He doesn’t think that Apple actually added NDA restrictions on rejection letters, but please read the entire entry yourself.

  • addicted

    There is no way Apple can restrict you from telling the world that your app was rejected for XYZ reasons.

    The whole NDA on rejection notices was much ado about nothing. It is pretty common practice not at just apple, but nearly all corporate communication to be covered under a confidentiality agreement.

    Every place I have worked (even non-Tech places) I have added a signature to all emails from my corporate account stating that the correspondence is confidential and should not be shared. The messages on the rejection letters is exactly the same thing.

    Btw, we have all heard Podcaster got rejected and for what reasons. Yet, I see no legal notices anywhere…

  • http://www.interaktiv-net.de/wordpress/ Interaktiv-Net

    Lifting some of the NDA only means that some devs would be able to go open source (if their app makes it), and that some people _might_ be able to publicly write docs and/or books. As a reminder NDA stands for “Non-Disclosure Agreement”, so it doesn’t change what you can do, only what you can say.

  • http://www.interaktiv-net.de/wordpress/ Interaktiv-Net

    Lifting some of the NDA only means that some devs would be able to go open source (if their app makes it), and that some people _might_ be able to publicly write docs and/or books. As a reminder NDA stands for “Non-Disclosure Agreement”, so it doesn’t change what you can do, only what you can say.

  • http://www.interaktiv-net.de/wordpress/ Interaktiv-Net

    Lifting some of the NDA only means that some devs would be able to go open source (if their app makes it), and that some people _might_ be able to publicly write docs and/or books. As a reminder NDA stands for “Non-Disclosure Agreement”, so it doesn’t change what you can do, only what you can say.

  • Czajnik

    Sorry for a bit lame question, but I’m quite confused about what the NDA was about, actually.

    SDK and documentation was available for free for any interested developer. So what was this NDA actually prohibiting? Talking about the technology which has a public documentation?

  • brady forrest

    @Czajnik
    IN theory anyone could get access to the SDK. There was a hundred dollar fee, but that was the only barrier. So the NDA didn’t prevent access to the SDK. It prevented people discussing and sharing their knowledge about the SDK. Both the book and conference I reference were hamstrung by the NDA. The Prags couldn’t release their book and the speakers at our conference were going to have to dance around iPhone specific questions. The NDA has seemed pointless to many from the beginning, if the iPhone had been any less spectacular it may have killed developer interest and the App Store.

  • Craig

    @brady forrest
    There was no barrier to access to the SDK…the $99 fee was only necessary if you wanted to test an app on a device or submit it to the App Store. The SDK could be downloaded for free, but only after you agreed to the terms of the NDA.