Apple Squashes the iPhone SDK NDA: What's the OSS Impact?

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 01, 2008

After much teeth-gnashing from the developer community, Apple has finally dropped its draconian and restrictive non-disclosure agreement (NDA) on the iPhone software development kit (SDK). In the seven months since the SDK showed up, Apple has taken much heat from developers and iPhone users alike over its lack of platfrom openness. The platform still isn't open, but it is a step in the right direction for Apple to eliminate this NDA. Here's what this means for the open source phones that will be competing with the iPhone.

Our sister blog theAppleBlog cites the key statements that Apple has made about its decision to drop the NDA:

"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 get a new SDK agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so, according to Apple. Unreleased software and features will also remain under NDA until they are released.

In the coming war between Linux phones based on LiMo's platform,  Android phones such as the T-Mobile G1, and the iPhone, the key to victory is going to be to snag the most good developers delivering the best applications. Apple's NDA on its SDK had been restricting many types of development efforts. In fact, just a few days ago a publisher stopped the publication of a book on developing for the iPhone specifically because of the NDA.

While Apple's platform is still far from open, dropping the NDA allows developers to share information freely, and will undoubtedly usher in more applications for the already red-hot iPhone. This is yet another reason that, while I think Android will be a big success (and not just on handsets), it's going to take time for good open source applications that can compete with iPhone applications to show up.

This is yet another reason why Google would be wise to put some serious funding behind Android application development. There is a $100 million fund in place to encourage development for the iPhone, and RIM has a $150 million fund for Blackberry application development.