Apple drops secrecy pledge for iPhone developers

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SEATTLE (AP) -- Apple Inc. will no longer force iPhone software developers to sign a nondisclosure agreement that many had said was hampering their ability to work.

The switch, announced Wednesday, comes a week after the introduction of the first phone loaded with Google Inc.'s Android software, an open-source operating system that lets developers make and sell programs without restriction.

In contrast, Apple had required every person who downloaded the iPhone software developer kit to pledge not to speak about its contents, even to fellow developers.

Recently, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company also barred programmers whose applications it rejected from iTunes - the only legitimate place to sell iPhone "apps" - from posting the reasons for rejection on the Web. The move fueled a new wave of critiques about Apple's approval process, already seen by many developers as secretive and capricious.

Apple said the iPhone nondisclosure agreement, or NDA, was meant to protect Apple's innovations, "so that others don't steal our work. It has happened before."

However, programmers complained the NDA prohibited them from sharing tips or comparing solutions to common problems. Sharing information could help them produce programs faster and with fewer bugs, they said.

In response, Apple acknowledged that the NDA created a burden on the developer community, and so it will no longer apply to iPhone software that has already been released. Programmers who are working with unreleased test versions of new iPhone software will still be bound by an NDA.

That's in line with the sort of agreements Apple makes with Macintosh computer software programmers, and with practices of other companies, including Microsoft Corp.

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