How will Apple’s New Developer Agreement Affect iPhone Mapping Apps?

by James Richards April 09, 2010

The Twitterverse and Blogosphere are all abuzz with yesterday’s news that Apple has apparently changed terms of its Developer Agreement to explicitly ban apps created with cross-compilers. This got me thinking about how this change might affect those of us developing mapping apps for the iPhone (and iPad).

The change that most people are talking about is in section 3.3.1 which now reads:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

I have to wonder if ESRI’s iPhone SDK or CloudMade’s iPhone SDK or any of the location toolkits such as SimpleGeo’s iPhone SDK were “originally written” in one of the approved languages without the aid of a cross-compiler. If not, apps built with these tools could be banned.

As an example, the linked SimpleGeo page states that “The SGClient is a basic Objective-C wrapper around SimpleGeo's OAuth API.” What is SimpleGeo’s OAuth API and does it meet these new requirements?

I’d like to know from some of these vendors whether or not their SDKs meet Apple’s new requirements.

But even more disturbing is this language in section 3.3.2:

“An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise.”

That sounds to me like Apple just banned the use of any third party APIs. Scary.

For now, we have to take a wait and see approach until Apple clarifies these points. But even if we can move forward using these SDKs to develop mapping apps for the iPhone / iPad, are people going to be willing to risk investing in this technology under these conditions? Even if you do everything right by Apple’s standards, there is a very real possibility of getting banned in the future when Apple suddenly changes it’s terms again.

It’s well known that Apple acquired Placebase last year, but no one really knows what the Apple Geo Team is up to. Who’s to say that Apple won’t release their own mapping platform and ban the use of all other mapping platforms on their devices? Sounds crazy, but then again, it appears that Apple has banned the use of a Lua which helped produce Angry Birds (the best selling paid app of all time) as well as every single game created by Electronic Arts.

Does this news change your perspective on developing mapping apps for the iPhone / iPad? Leave a comment to share your thoughts…

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Los Angeles Spatial / Location Developers Meetup Group

by James Richards April 02, 2010
image Today I created a new Meetup group for Spatial / Location Developers in Los Angeles.

Here is the group description:

The Los Angeles Spatial / Location Developers Group is for software developers working with any spatial or location enabled platforms. The group aims to be platform and vendor neutral.

Some of the technologies we may discuss include ESRI, Google Maps, Bing Maps, the OSGeo stack, Open Street Map, SimpleGeo, and Social Location APIs from Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Twitter, Facebook (forthcoming), etc.

All levels of developers are welcome, from seasoned GIS professionals to those new to geospatial or mobile location development.

As this is a new group we will be actively looking for creative input on the direction and focus that members want to see.

Meetup groups organize online and then meet face to face for real world interaction. I've been participating in other groups recently and found them to be fun and helpful. I’m hoping this Meetup group will grow into a place for geospatial and location developers to interact and learn from one another.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are interested in geospatial or location development, please join the group at:

If you’re not in LA but know someone here who might be interested, please pass the word along. And if you're really inspired, start a spatial / location developers Meetup group in your own city!

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James Richards

Hi, I'm James Richards the CTO and co-founder of Artisan Global LLC. We make location-aware mobile apps with maps. I'm the author of QuakeFeed and I helped launch Zaarly at LASW Feb 2011. I also enjoy surfing, snowboarding, golfing, yoga, and music. I love my family: Linda, Sequoya and our cats Remy and Twiggy. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you find something helpful here.

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