iPhone apps cracked – Apple fails to protect developers

The iPhone App store is a pretty restrictive place for a developer. Not only do you have to pay $99 just to be considered, Apple may for completely arbitrary reasons refuse to carry your application. Additionally the rules that Apple expect developers to work under consistently prevents them from utilizing the device to its full potential.

One of the many rules associated with developing for the iPhone is the insistence that distribution only take place via the App store, and further that the full functionality of the app be available on download, ie. there should be no further functionality to unlock. While this makes for a smooth user experience, it also more or less removes the ability for developers to have trial versions, and to use their own code to protect their application from piracy.

This would all be well and good if Apple could actually protect applications, but since the Fairplay wrapper has been cracked a long time ago, applications are actually completely unprotected. The first Application, and the most popular on the App store, Supermonkeyball, has just suffered this fate, and is now freely downloadable and installable by anyone with even a modicum of skill. And because of the monoculture that Fairplay protection represents, this means every application, big or small, is subject to the same attack. Forums housing pirated iPhone software are already springing up.

Due to the inherent weakness of the protection, it is unlikely Apple will be able to mount a worthwhile response. Large scale piracy may actually benefit the iPhone platform adoption, but developers of popular professional software like PocketInformant may find the iPhone no safe haven from marauding software thieves. In fact it may be the unsafest seas of all.

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