> Am a bit confused here - does this mean it is not possible to
> distribute iOS apps outside Apple's market? Some people have said yes,
> others have said no.
It's complicated, but in short, NO. There is no way to run any code on an
iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) without Apple's approval. As far as I
know, there are three ways to install software on the device:
a) install an application through the Apple App Store, which has been
explicitly approved by Apple, or
b) pay $100 per year for an Apple developer license, which lets you compile
and run your own code, or
c) each developer may nominate up to 100 devices for "ad hoc" installation,
which means those 100 people can install your software without Apple's
So option (c) lets you distribute software without Apple's approval, but it
obviously doesn't work for wide-scale distribution.
The other option is jailbreaking, which basically means someone has found a
security exploit in the device allowing the installation of non-approved
software. Third-party app stores such as Cydia run on jailbroken Apple
hardware and allow the installation of third-party software (much like
adding Debian repositories). But these are not supported by Apple, they
typically break when Apple issues an update, they may void the warranty,
and they may not be legal in some countries (though I believe they were
recently ruled legal in the United States). Essentially, I do not buy the
excuse Apple fans have often tried to give me, that "it's an open device
because it allows jailbreaking." I don't consider jailbreaking to
compensate for the lack of control the devices normally give their "owners".
My assessment is that iOS is completely incompatible with free software. My
close (non-lawyer) reading of the (L)GPL v2 and 3 finds that it would be a
violation of the GPL to distribute software via the App Store. Regardless
of the technical compatibility with licenses, these devices are clearly
against the spirit of free software, forcing all software developers to
grant none of the four freedoms set out by Richard Stallman.
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