Apple kills iPhone developer's App Store end-around

Blocks Podcaster author from selling rejected app using iPhone beta-test delivery channel

Apple Inc. has closed a loophole that had allowed a rejected iPhone developer to sell his application using a distribution channel meant for beta testing and enterprises.

Alex Sokirynsky, creator of an iPhone and iPod Touch application called Podcaster, confirmed that he has been blocked from selling any additional copies of his program. "Basically, Apple denied me from provisioning new devices," Sokirynsky acknowledged in an e-mail.

Apple had said it rejected the tool two weeks ago because it duplicated features in the company's own iTunes software. "Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes," Apple told Sokirynsky.

After Apple rejected Podcaster, Sokirynsky had sold the software using the "Ad Hoc" mechanism, Apple's name for the distribution channel it set up earlier this year to help developers beta-test their iPhone applications. The mechanism is also used by enterprise developers to offer custom iPhone apps to corporate users for business use.

Ad Hoc allows up to 100 iPhones or iPod Touch devices to download and install a specific build of an application. To enable downloads, a developer must obtain each iPhone's UDID (unique device identifier) code. Sokirynsky created a Web site to sell Podcaster directly to customers for $9.99; during the process, buyers had to submit their iPhone's UDID, then download and install the application to their computer.

Apple has effectively shuttered that sales channel by shutting down Sokirynsky's account.

On Monday, he posted an entry to his blog blasting Apple's move. "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," Sokirynsky said on the blog. "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 [sic] such high-quality service and products in the past."

Sokirynsky deleted the post shortly after it went live. On Tuesday, in response to questions, he said he regretted writing the blog. "That was written very late at night. I really didn't mean to write and so I took it down. I should have waited a few days to cool off before writing the post."

Others, however, have linked Sokirynsky's move to reports that Apple has told iPhone developers that the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that they signed covers all correspondence between the company and its developers, including rejection notices.

Sokirynsky did not immediately reply on Thursday to further questions about a link between pulling his post and Apple's NDA.

"Apple just closed a loophole in their system and you can't blame them for that," he said on Tuesday via e-mail.

He's not ditching Podcaster, however. In the since-vanished Monday blog, Sokirynsky said he would port Podcaster to Android, the Google Inc.-backed open-source mobile operating system that will debut on T-Mobile USA Inc.'s G1 handset next month. "At least there, I will be welcomed instead of being walked all over," he said in the entry.

Another option, he said, was to tweak the program so it could be installed on iPhones that had been hacked to accommodate unauthorized applications. "I am going to compile the application to install using Cydia," he said Tuesday, referring to an open-source iPhone application installer.

Existing copies of Podcaster continue to work, Sokirynsky said, and customers who paid for the program prior to Monday can still install it. The Web site he used to sell Podcaster via Ad Hoc was still live on Thursday, but it had been modified to include a short message telling potential buyers that Apple had blocked additional sales.

Apple has not responded to questions asked last week about Apple's rejection policy and whether it would allow Sokirynsky to continue to use the Ad Hoc channel.

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