Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Apple to iPhone developer: No soup for you! [update]

February 17, 2008: 11:56 AM ET

tinycode.jpg

UPDATE: It appears this whole thing was a hoax. This was posted Monday on a MacRumor forum:

Hey Guys,

It's finally time I just come out and say it; I lied.

Tiny-Code never had any relations with Apple, Inc. or any other division of Apple. Never had the new firmware or any pre-SDK pack. Certainly never signed any NDA.

I find it interesting that a simple joke on the front of a minor at best Installer.app repo can cause so many wakes...

Sincerest Apologies,

KellyTM/Tiny-Code Developer (link)

Thanks reader Xandro for the tip.

---

Apple's (AAPL) relations with third-party developers have never been easy, and the little psychodrama that unfolded over the weekend with a one-man outfit called Tiny Code is a classic case in point.

It started on Friday when Tiny Code, which publishes applications and software patches for the iPhone, announced on its website that it was no longer working with firmware 1.1.3 -- the current version of the iPhone's underlying software. Then it added:

We can't say much, but we are working with Apple and with their SDK for the next firmware release and SDK applications and we shouldn't be missed for long. We will no longer update our Installer.app repo for legality reasons and you should see us soon on iTunes.

This was news. Steve Jobs had announced in October that Apple would be releasing its much-anticipated iPhone SDK (Software Developers Kit) before the end of February, and there were reports last year that a handful of large third-party developers -- like the giant gaming company Electronic Arts -- had been seeded early copies. But this was the first evidence that Apple was reaching out not only to smaller developers, but to a programmer who had been deeply involved in developing unauthorized apps for jailbroken iPhones.

Then, in a sidebar, Tiny Code adds:

UPDATE: We are now targeting fw 1.1.4 Alpha 2.

This was the first anybody outside Apple's nondisclosure circle had heard anything about 1.1.4, and it set off a rush of speculation. Did the fact that the firmware was in alpha 2 mean that it was just around the corner -- perhaps for release at the rumored Feb. 26 Apple event? Did the fact that it was not yet in beta mean that it was running late? Would it be released with the SDK or a few weeks after? Would it break all the existing third-party apps and send the hackers who unlock iPhones back to square one? (see, for example, here)

No sooner had the speculation started than Tiny Code's website disappeared, replaced with an inoffensive link to Apple's official iPhone Dev Center. The original message (pasted above) was preserved in a screen grab at macenstein, one of the first websites to report the story.

How is this an illustration of Apple's uneasy relations with third party developers?

Because of what happened next. Kelly™, the man behind the one-man Tiny Code operation, tells the story in a four-point message posted yesterday on a MacRumors forum:

One: Yes, I have a copy of the Apple SDK for the iPhone targeting firmware 1.1.4.

Two: Yes, Tiny-Code.com was ordered to be removed from operation by Apple, Inc because by releasing firmware versions and stating I had possession of the firmware and SDK was apparently a violation of the Non-Disclosure Agreement I agreed to when I accepted a copy of the SDK and firmware.

Three: Yes I was wrist-slapped by Apple and won't be included in any further firmware beta's or testing/coding.

And finally, Four: No I cannot disclose any more about anything without getting into more trouble, stating the above is ok because well let's face it, there is documented proof I already have and Apple already backhanded me for it. (link)

As Seinfeld's soup man might have put it: "No more soup for you, Tiny Code!"

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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