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iPhone developers skirt Apple's NDA to promote apps

iPhone developers skirt Apple's NDA to promote apps

With the iPhone AppStore due to debut within a month's time, developers who have been accepted into Apple's official iPhone program are chomping at the bit to discuss their upcoming applications. Murkiness regarding Apple's non-disclosure agreement, signing of which is a prerequisite to the program, has stymied promotional efforts, including interviews with the press, publication of screenshots and even bare-bones announcements.

NDA confusion

Apple's NDA states that members of the developer program shall not disclose any information regarding the functionality or makeup of the currently available, beta software development kit (SDK). As such, many developers are unsure regarding what exactly constitutes an NDA violation: pushing screenshots of SDK-developed applications to a Web site?; discussing application, but not SDK features with the press?

Specifically, Apple's NDA reads:

"You agree that the SDK licensed hereunder, the terms and conditions of this Agreement, and any other non-public information that You learn about Apple?s products, designs, research, development, know-how, or Apple?s business, finances or personnel, or non-public third party information, in connection with this Agreement or in connection with Your use of any part of the SDK will be deemed 'Apple Confidential Information' under this Agreement."

All quiet on the development front

In the week after Apple's announcement of the SDK, the company confirmed that a roster of notable developers, including Intuit, PopCap, Net Suite and Six Apart had signed on to deliver applications through the AppStore. Since then, however, the heavy hitters have been all but silent. None have posted video or image-based demonstrations of their applications, nor feature descriptions.

Electronic Arts, which demoed an iPhone version of their highly anticipated game "Spore" during Steve Jobs' March 6th SDK introduction, and AOL, which showed off an iPhone-compliant instant messenger client, have also been mum since.

Developers accepted into Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers' $100 million venture capital fund for official iPhone application development, have made only brief revelations (through KPCB) regarding their development intentions.

Small developers are, however, getting the word out about forthcoming applications.

gbcb Software, LLP is showing off screenshots of a native, SDK-built application it calls "groceryzen." The software uses the familiar sliding-style iPhone interface to organize recipes and shopping list items. Features include the ability to generate lists based on recipes, automatically reorder lists based on their aisle location and more.

Mobileage has also posted SDK-built application screenshots to its Web site. The firm says it will be offering two games for the iPhone and iPod Touch through the iTunes App Store later this year: "Blackjack21" and "TouchTile Mahjong."

Jailbreak testing grounds

Other developers have resorted to demonstrating and testing their applications publicly under the "jailbreak" umbrella (for more information jailbreaking for unofficial applications, see our guide), then performing the minor porting work necessary to move their applications to the official SDK, thus theoretically circumventing any NDA issues. Demiforce, which is developing a game dubbed "Trism" for the iPhone, has posted a YouTube video of its game running on a jailbroken iPod Touch.

Some developers are posting "demo" versions of their applications on repositories accessible by jailbroken iPhones, reserving the full, commercial titles for the official AppStore.


With most developers currently keeping their mouths closed, a flood of announcements and demonstrations can be expected after the AppStore is officially unveiled and Apple's NDA restrictions lifted or clarified.