Spurned iPhone developer's complaints mysteriously disappear

Alex Sokirynsky, one of many application developers rejected by Apple's App Store, has admitted to deep-sixing his own blog post. Could Apple be using NDA clauses as a tool for silencing disenchanted developers?

In the latest twist on a series of application rejections by Apple's App Store, Alex Sokirynsky -- one of at least four impacted developers -- has pulled a blog post in which he'd vented about Apple's ongoing interference and vowed to move his Podcaster application to Google's Android Marketplace.

In a post dated Monday, September 22, Sokirynsky complained, among other things, that Apple had made a "childish move" in apparently thwarting his efforts to reach a workaround by using a feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch platform called "Ad Hoc App Distribution" to distribute his "Podcaster" application himself.

"It seems that Apple has shut me down. I can no longer provision any more devices. The developers website that had a 'remove device' link is now gone. I looked at the help tab but it still lists 'removing a device' as one of the options," according to the developer.

"All I wanted was for someone from Apple to contact me and tell me how we can work it out so that I get into the app store. Instead, Apple took the [coward's] way out by simply disabling features in my developers portal. This seems like a childish move for a company that has been proving such high quality service and products in the past," he wrote on Monday.

"I plan to make Podcaster for the Android operating system. At least there, I will be welcomed instead of being walked all over. I will also try to port the app to a jailbroken iPhone."

Yet some time between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, the post on Sokirynsky's Almerica Blog -- entitled "Apple shuts down Podcaster, again!" -- mysteriously disappeared (although at this writing, it is still stored in Google's cache).

In an e-mail response to BetaNews on Wednesday morning, Sokirynski acknowledged removing the entry himself. He wouldn't stipulate his reasons, though, exactly.

"I took the blog post down myself. There is something going on that I
cannot talk about, yet. Maybe in a few weeks," the developer told BetaNews.

Coincidentally or not, on Tuesday afternoon, MacRumors published an article stating, "Apparently, Apple has now started labeling their rejection letters with Non-Disclosure (NDA) warnings: THE INFORMATION IN THIS [MESSAGE] IS UNDER NON-DISCLOSURE."

Arnold Kim, the author of the MacRumors piece, also pointed out: "Readers should note that Apple's developer correspondence may have already been covered by the original NDA, but Apple is now making it clear."

Like Angelo DiNardi's MailWrangler application soon afterward, Sokirynsky's Podcaster got turned down by Apple in mid-September in grounds that the application "duplicates functionality" already built into the iPhone platform. Apple has also squelched at least two apps from other developers -- the "Murderdrome" comic book and a fart joke application dubbed "Pull My Finger" -- on other grounds.

In light of all of these rejections, Apple has been drawing increasing criticism from its own community about failing to apply greater consistency around which applications are accepted for the App Store. If Apple is indeed using an NDA clause to hush up spurned developers, would such a move be legally enforceable? That could be likely, according to one legal expert.

"What I've seen frequently happen is such circumstances is that a company and vendor will generally sign an NDA first, and then a separate contract depicting the terms and conditions of services/products, etc.," said veteran technology law analyst (and former publisher of PDA & Wireless World) Richard Santalesa in an e-mail to BetaNews today. "I can readily see a clause placing NDA obligations on someone about contract termination issues outside of a litigation circumstance. Such a clause would be typically legal, outside some specific scenarios."

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