Should Apple Be Better-Protecting Developer Previews?
As a user of Apple’s Mac OS X desktop operating system one of the things that I personally find to be most appealing about the entire “Mac experience” is the fact that there are so many independent developers out there who make flat-out fantastic applications for the system. Sure, I love the product that are developed by lesser-known companies like Panic and Realmac Software over the “big players” such as Adobe, but when I talk about “independent developers” I’m really referring to those one-man operations where one user is able to see a need for an application and develop it on their own from the ground up. The Mac App Store makes this phenomenon even better by allowing once small-time developers who previously had little to no chance of making a living off of their creative efforts to market and sell their applications in a store that is incredibly well-integrated into the OS.
Having said that, in order to have this type of development happening Apple has done quite a bit to make it easy for developers – both for iOS and the Macintosh platform – to get to the point where they can submit and publish their applications to the respective App Stores. At $99 per year per platform (iOS or OS X) prospective and experienced developers alike can sign up for Apple’s “Developer Connection” where they have access to “a wealth of technological resources” for developing their applications, including developer forums, access to a treasure-chest of documentation on the iOS and OS X APIs, and access to “developer previews” and developer-only betas of the Mac OS X and iOS operating systems.
But as much as I applauded Apple for making these resources available to developers I cannot help but to realize that in making these resources available (speaking predominantly of the pre-release software) Apple is essentially setting themselves up for developers to show off, leak, and re-distribute the company’s trade secrets. Of course I realize that the majority of developers follow the non-disclosure agreement and do not share or expose Apple’s pre-release goods to the public, but when it comes down to it there are some out there that do. And Apple is letting them get away with it.
I mean, it’s not very hard to find developers out there who are more than willing to sell seats on their developer accounts to non-developers who are simply eager to get their hands on Apple’s “latest and greatest” regardless of the fact that it could very well be unstable and flawed. I personally noticed the number of people looking for or open to this type of arrangement more and more during the release of various “developer previews” when OS X Lion was still in its testing stages and through each release of iOS beta updates.
More recently Apple appears to have been cracking down on this practice by axing the accounts of developers who sold seats or slots on their account and de-activating the devices of those who purchased or obtained access to iOS previews from crooked developers. But really, I feel as if Apple should have done more beforehand and should implement stricter policies that prevent everyone and their mother from getting leaked developer previews.
First off, Apple should start looking at when developers add new users to their accounts in order to red-flag those that are selling or handing out seats. Think about it; if a developer only adds users during the time periods that new pre-release seeds are pushed, wouldn’t it be fair to assume that they might be up to no good? I mean, Apple should at least monitor and look into things like that, and as of now it’s pretty obvious that they haven’t been.
Moreover, I really think that Apple should check the eligibility of those entering the development program, because quite honestly even I know of a few people who forked up the money for developer memberships just go get pre-releases despite the fact that they have no background or interest in developing. While I’m not entirely sure how this would best be done, one way that I think would likely work would be if Apple were to not give developers access to pre-release products if they hadn’t submitted (or could prove that they were actually working on) an application for said platform. So if someone had, for example, an iOS development account and had no history of using the account for anything other than downloading pre-release versions of iOS Apple should restrict that user’s access to future pre-releases. Simple as that.
Other options would include giving “developers” simple tests to make sure that they are qualified to be a part of the developer program. Either way, I really think Apple needs to do something because I for one am tired of seeing leaked images before software is even announced.