Apple Puts Developers on Double-Secret Probation

Last Updated Jul 29, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

Animal HouseAfter the post yesterday on Apple's unquenchable desire for control, and saying that the tendency probably hurt the company more than helped, I thought I was done. If only I had understood the determination brewing in Cupertino, because Apple is again shooting itself in the foot by making it more difficult for developers to write better code for the iPhone.

If you've never programmed, be assured that one of the most important tasks is swapping information so everyone learns how to work around bugs and gets answers to otherwise mystifying features. However, that isn't happening among iPhone developers, because Apple sealed their mouths with one of its infamous non-disclosure agreements:

If developers weren't forced to spend time working through coding problems on their own, they could spend more time making better applications. "I don't really want to spend my time toiling over a ton of issues that could easily be answered via a mailing list or blog post," Justin Williams of Second Gear told Ars. "I know there are a few developers that have written excellent pieces of code or blog posts that they'd love to share, but the NDA prevents it. To me, that's a no-win for everyone."Developers new to the Apple fold would benefit even more from the "free flow of ideas, help lists, and web sites where newcomers to the platform can get help getting around common pitfalls," said Ben Gottlieb of Stand Alone.
Originally the NDA made sense because the systems were in beta and no one wanted inaccurate information floating about, but in case Apple didn't notice, the product is actually shipping.

This is too perfect. Even how-to books on programming the iPhone are sitting in publishers' warehouses because they can't be disseminated. And for the final twist, apparently someone bought an iPhone and found a couple of images already on it â€" of the top secret factory where some enterprising contract manufacturer builds the units.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.