iFixit developer account and app banned over TV tear down
Apple isn’t known for leaks. In fact, they take measures to make sure things don’t get leaked. In the super-secret world of Apple consumer products there is a bubble of protection Apple builds around its products and programs. But there is a special relationship between Apple and its developers.
The Developer community is a special one. Developers are privileged as they are in the position to use pre-release software (and hardware). Devs test their applications (and the applications of other developers) on new firmware. Usually it’s just pre-release software.
This is how upcoming features get leaked:
- Apple releases the pre-release code to developers.
- Devs use pre-release code
- Dev finds something super-cool
- Dev publishes feature with or as news outlet
- Developers who write tech news cover the new feature at length adding their value, but make sure to source the Developer who broke the news
Why is #5 so important? Because everyone wants to break the news without hurting their developer relationship with Apple, so they make sure to tie the story back to the original guy mitigating their risk and allowing them to release the leak.
The Apple Developer agreement is like any other legal-type agreement for acceptable use. The agreement states that because the individual will have access to pre-release code that is considered Apple confidential, the individual will not release information to the public about the product.
Why? Great question. Is it because Apple doesn’t want people to know about their product? Or perhaps Apple doesn’t want the competition to know. Or is it because pre-release functionality hasn’t been finalized, and those functions in pre-release might not make it to the official release? It is a combination of all of these. But in the case of iFixit and the new TV, things were a little more sensitive for a couple of reasons.
First, the mitigating circumstance. Apple announced the new TV. With such a short time span between the announcement and the delivery date, Apple decided to give developers the opportunity to test applications on a new TV developer kit.
First, they are taking steps to make make sure the quality component is there. I say this because the first thing I noticed was the registration opportunity to get the Apple TV Developer kit. This kit is used to test applications on the hardware it was meant to run on. Simulation is good but it’s not ideal. A good simulator allows representative environmental values in testing, but actually running code on the hardware natively is how it will be used. Therefore, that should be the litmus test for how it is tested. So in a time crunch they have decided to let Developers get a hardware based Kit for testing. It’s important to have as many quality apps as possible when launching an AppStore. Quality requires testing and testing requires people and gear.
Apple is willing to front some money into distributing hardware test units, deploy the documentation and software required to build applications, covered the marketing and press venues, redesigned websites and publicly announced their intentions. What does this mean? Every developer in the now-consolidated Apple Developer program, has access to the above resources. Many developers will simply need to re-tool their current code for TV. The hardware refresh which included arming the TV with the Apple A8 Cyclone 2GB RAM, a choice of local hard drive capacity and a remote that pays homage to the Wii.
Second, iFixit’s business model. They are a Developer because they
have a tear-down and repair application in the AppStore. They make money writing about the ease of repairability on devices, and describes (with a fine granularity) the silicon that is used, the design and what have you.
So what do you expect will happen when a tear-down and repair guide Application developer is granted an exclusive look at TV hardware?
Of course this is going to happen. Why wouldn’t it?
Well, there is this:
If you mess with the bull…
Apple is willing to punish developers for breaking the rules, but it seems that some rules are more important than others. I have seen developers disregard the non-disclosure rule quite a few times. I have even done it myself. However, it seems the severity of the damage Apple feels in the case of the iFixit example gets compounded with a program that involves hardware and the granularity of the coverage, as well as the popularity of iFixit and its depth of reach.
Without Apple products there would be a lot less to write about, but without iFixit I wouldn’t be able to publish things like this: