Apple’s way or the highway: iPhone SDK agreement specifically forbids real-time route guidance

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GPS maker TomTom may already have their software working on the iPhone, but that doesn’t mean Apple is going to let them release it through the iPhone App Store. Sharp BBG readers pointed out Section 3.3.7 (dev account needed) of the Apple iPhone SDK agreement, which states:

Applications may not be designed or marketed for real time route guidance; automatic or autonomous control of vehicles, aircraft, or other mechanical devices; dispatch or fleet management; or emergency or life-saving purposes.

That would seem to put the kibosh on efforts from third-party companies like TomTom and Garmin. Yet the software those companies could provide would be a serious boon to the iPhone. You’d think Apple would want them to offer their software if Apple isn’t going to make a proper mapping/driving application themselves. Instead, it appears they’ll prevent third-parties from releasing the applications, probably because Apple plans to release their own in the future.

Score one for critics of Apple’s closed software platform.

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21 Responses to Apple’s way or the highway: iPhone SDK agreement specifically forbids real-time route guidance

  1. mgfarrelly says:

    About, say a week or two, after the July release, when the newly Unlocked iPhones are running just these kinds of programs, we can all look back at this and laugh.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s far more likely that the map providers (NAVTEQ, TomTom) restrict the use of the data via Google maps.

  3. cliffman says:

    I would agree with the comments on lawsuits. This looks more like boilerplate to prevent a lawsuit.
    In the US people who supply 911 centers, hostpitals, etc. are all pretty cautious about this sort of stuff.

  4. cliffman says:

    sigh. if only i could spell…..

  5. bardfinn says:

    The MIMvista program (Medical Imaging Viewer) they showcased in the WWDC keynote would seem to violate this clause of the SDK.

    The clause is probably so that Apple doesn’t get sued for lack of fitness of purpose, for attractive nuisance, for failure to be auditable, and to comply with Google’s maps’ requirements.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is the standard-type language which in essence says don’t develop something which is intended for vehicle control or other autonomous operation, like flying a remote-controlled plane. It also prohibits developing something that would be used in a life-threatening application. It is simply CYA.

  7. pupdog says:

    Or, Apple already has a partnership agreement in place with one of these companies, and is protecting that relationship.

  8. Anonymous says:

    the closed proprietary systems of apple stuff is why ive never bought anything from them. but lawdy, those shiny new phones are cheap.

  9. Tubman says:

    I’m obviously far too lazy to sign up for a dev account and view the context, but it may be worth noting that Google Earth has similar restrictions:

    Except where you have been specifically licensed by Google to do so, you may not use the Google Earth Software in connection with any products, systems, or applications installed or otherwise connected to or in communication with vehicles for or in connection with: (a) real time route guidance (including without limitation, turn-by-turn route guidance and other routing that is enabled through the use of a sensor); (b) any systems or functions for automatic or autonomous control of vehicle behavior; or (c) dispatch, fleet management or similar applications.

    Is it possible that Apple’s restriction is not on the development of navigation software per se, but on the creation of navigation software which works by spamming an Apple maps server via API calls?

  10. Matt J says:

    Is it possible that Apple’s restriction is not on the development of navigation software per se, but on the creation of navigation software which works by spamming an Apple maps server via API calls?

    I suspect not. The iPhone already has rudimentary route guidance via the Maps application, and navigation software which used the map functions in the SDK would essentially be a recreation of that. Third party software would have to write a new their own code to improve upon the Maps application, and would probably therefore not use the Google maps database, as the Maps application does. I think this policy is to block legal action, if an iPhone were somehow implicated in an accident.

  11. morcheeba says:

    This restriction has been in there since day one… I took it to assume that apple will have a preferred vendor. Which is a shame because so many people want to do their own version. Shameless self promotion: our in-development 3d globe ap
    http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2008/05/iphone_earth_coolest_thing_i_saw_at.html

  12. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps this is a residual from the old SDK, for the old non-GPS iPhone? The core-location feature apparently drains a lot of battery life when it’s computing from wifi and cell towers. But, obviously with a real GPS this is not as much a concern. So, while this sucks if they don’t change it, perhaps they’ll modify it for the 3G iphone. Just a thought.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Gol dang. This submission filter is buggy. I bet a lot of commenters get tired, and leave.

  14. Bugs says:

    It seems more likely to me that they’re trying to limit their liability if the phone glitches, causing the program in question to do something dangerous.

    Under British law, there’s a requirement that products are “fit for purpose”: a device must work as its advertising suggests and be safe to use in any way suggested by the adverts and its instructions. I expect that this law is pretty consistent around the world.

    Marketing a device that’s capable of “…real time route guidance; automatic or autonomous control of vehicles, aircraft, or other mechanical devices; dispatch or fleet management; or emergency or life-saving purposes.” could be interpreted as a guarantee that the device can do that. Even if they haven’t made the software themselves, Apple could be seen as condoning the sale and therefore be at fault if the hardware, not the software, fails during use.

    Therefore, when an iPhone-controlled autonomous car drives off a cliff or an iPhone fails to save someone’s life, there’s a case for saying it’s Apple’s fault for selling an inadequate product. I expect Apple just wants to avoid expensive court cases by pointing out that their device is specifically not designed to be used in these potentially dangerous applications.

    This is the same logic that leads to product warnings like the travel irons that warn us “don’t iron clothes on body”. You can just imagine someone doing it, arguing that it seemed like a reasonable use of the product and the manufacturer being fined and — at least under British law — the company’s safety inspector being imprisoned for negligence leading to injury, or even for manslaughter.

  15. thomaslev says:

    I still think that the apps people are going to create are going to be pretty sweet. loads of possibilities. this promo from one company looks pretty promoising – http://youtube.com/watch?v=irXCMdRprfw

    Maybe someone can make an app for cut and post, tho? Or hatchet together video through the photo feature? Still lagging…

  16. philipb says:

    Blah blah blah, will they, won’t they? Meanwhile my N95 does all these things already.

    Sat based GPS – check
    3G – check
    3rd Party Apps – check
    MS Exchange – check, see above

  17. Anonymous says:

    or emergency or life-saving purposes. I guess Apple doesn’t want to save any lives or knowing Apple Greed wants to have your medical insurance card first.

  18. Ryan Waddell says:

    It seems more likely to me that they’re trying to limit their liability if the phone glitches, causing the program in question to do something dangerous.

    This was my first thought as well – the fact that they include things like autonomous control of vehicles, etc in the same paragraph would seem to imply that this is the reasoning behind it.

  19. Matt J says:

    The MIMvista program (Medical Imaging Viewer) they showcased in the WWDC keynote would seem to violate this clause of the SDK.

    The program demoed was not for emergency use, it is basically a data access program. What the agreement is talking about is an application with, for instance, direct control of a defibrillator. Do you really think Apple would have demoed an application which broke the agreement?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone notice the semi-colon? That really changes the meaning of the sentence. Granted, it’s all semantics, but still…

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