The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the Apple iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, a secretive document that requires its signatories to agree to a gag order on the terms of the deal. EFF got the agreement by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to NASA, who had signed onto it in order to release its app. EFF Senior IP Attorney Fred von Lohmann has some pithy analysis of just how awful this agreement is for the programmers who gets sucked into it:
Overall, the Agreement is a very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn. That's not unusual where end-user license agreements are concerned (and not all the terms may ultimately be enforceable), but it's a bit of a surprise as applied to the more than 100,000 developers for the iPhone, including many large public companies. How can Apple get away with it? Because it is the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold. In other words, it's only because Apple still "owns" the customer, long after each iPhone (and soon, iPad) is sold, that it is able to push these contractual terms on the entire universe of software developers for the platform.
In short, no competition among app stores means no competition for the license terms that apply to iPhone developers.
If Apple's mobile devices are the future of computing, you can expect that future to be one with more limits on innovation and competition (or "generativity," in the words of Prof. Jonathan Zittrain) than the PC era that came before. It's frustrating to see Apple, the original pioneer in generative computing, putting shackles on the market it (for now) leads. If Apple wants to be a real leader, it should be fostering innovation and competition, rather than acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord. Developers should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back them.
It's amazing all the ways that the iPhone manages to screw the people that love it: saddling iPhone owners with crappy contracts with abusive mobile companies, limiting their access to programs and forcing them into one-sided EULAs, then screwing the developers with equally abusive agreements. I guess that's one way to think different.