Apple Eases Up on iOS, OS X Beta Secrecy

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Apple is taking a less restrictive stance on secrecy surrounding the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite by letting developers talk more openly about the operating systems instead of clamping down with a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that stops them from saying anything at all. The change doesn't mean developers can talk openly about everything they're experiencing in the beta operating systems, but it will let them discuss features Apple has already highlighted at its Worldwide Developer Conference without fear of repercussion.

Apple says it's OK for developers to talk about some iOS OS X pre-release featuresApple says it's OK for developers to talk about some iOS OS X pre-release features

Section 10.1 from the developer agreement, titled "Information Deemed Apple Confidential," states

Further, Apple agrees that You will not be bound by the foregoing confidentiality terms with regard to technical information about pre-release Apple Software and services disclosed by Apple at WWDC (Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference), except that You may not post screen shots, write public reviews or redistribute any pre-release Apple Software or services.

Translation: If it was mentioned in Monday's keynote, it's OK to publicly discuss. Developers can't, however, post screenshots or release apps build with OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 tools that are still in beta testing.

The big change here isn't so much that Apple is letting anyone bound by the WWDC NDA to talk about features mentioned in the keynote presentation, but that the company is actually acknowledging that it's doing so. Previously, the agreement's wording said developers needed to keep their mouths shut even though everyone else was talking about keynote-revealed features, but Apple wasn't doing anything to enforce that.

Changing the agreement brings it in line with the spirit of what Apple meant and takes away the possibility that the company could unexpectedly switch its position and push developers from the program for doing what was permitted in practice even though it was prohibited on paper.

Mac and iOS app developer Ole Begemann shared the agreement wording on his blog, along with his take, saying, "I am not a lawyer, but if I am reading this correctly, it means that beta version of the operating systems and SDKs are still under NDA, but Apple allows developers to discuss new APIs and features that have been introduced at WWDC in public."

There is still some vagueness surrounding Apple's wording. Can developers, for example, talk about their experiences coding for OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, or is that acceptable as long as they don't write or record reviews of the complete operating system? Most likely, it's the latter that's prohibited.

Despite the debate over exactly what certain words in the agreement mean, it's clear that Apple is moving away from its draconian control over what developers can say and its iron fist control over who gets to see pre-release OS versions, too. OS X Yosemite public beta, anyone?

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

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Apple wasn't stopping developers from talking about keynote announcements from previous WWDC events, so it made sense to change the agreement wording to match the company's intent. Good move, Apple.

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This really is a smart move on Apple’s part even though it’s not a major change. Apple NDAs since forever have had a clause that allows you to talk about anything that’s released/announced/known publicly through actions other than your own. But you couldn’t go much beyond the info that was released.

The way I read this (note: not Legal Advice) is that developers can discuss most or all about the topics that were announced in the keynote. That’s a welcome expansion, and clarification.

Chris Adamson

But we developers need further clarification on how far this goes for cases like showing off new APIs at conferences or meetups like CocoaHeads (can I show it in Xcode 6 on the projector?), and publishing things like Stack Overflow answers, online articles, and pre-release eBooks. More thoughts over on my blog:

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