General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Why does Apple keep info on it's pre-released Operating Systems under NDA?

Asked by gorillapaws (30691points) February 16th, 2012

As a hobbyist Mac programmer, I have access to pre-release software such as the just announced 10.8 Mountain Lion Mac OS X.

The problem is that all of the developer-related goodness is locked under NDA, so I can’t ask questions, or benefit from the questions/answers of others on sites like, or on the many mailing lists, etc. Apple does provide access to it’s registered developers on a secure Apple forum where these things can legally be talked about, but the problem is that Apple’s secure forum isn’t very busy, many questions go unanswered, and there isn’t the rich discussion that we see in other places.

Anyone can sign up to be part of the Mac Developer Program for $100/year (there’s also a free account, but you don’t get access to pre-release stuff with that). As a result, the NDA isn’t preventing competitors from accessing any of this information, as it’s trivial for them to make an account and look up anything they want.

So my question is why does Apple do this? There must be some legal necessity, because having the people developing software for your platform and helping test the OS and discover bugs being able to freely communicate is very important to that process. I’ve never understood this, and it’s been going on for many years.

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5 Answers

jerv's avatar

Considering how sue-happy they are right now, I think that the NDA is redundant at best. I am almost surprised that any non-Apple OS is allowed to use icons.

Seriously though, it is pretty much just a formality.

auhsojsa's avatar

With my limited knowledge anyone could become part of the Mac Developer Program, including those who work for Linux, Windows and etc.

gorillapaws's avatar

@auhsojsa absolutely, which is kinda my point. For example, Apple has a lot of interest in having Microsoft’s Office and other products work bug-free when the new OS is released on day 1. Clearly the NDA was never meant to prevent other companies from spying (once they release it to the 10’s or 100’s of thousands of registered developers, it’s pretty much out there to the world), Apple’s execs aren’t idiots, they know this. There has to be some good reason why they have to do it this way, and my gut tells me it’s likely to do with Intellectual Property law, protecting trademarks, patents, licensing or some other legal thing.

auhsojsa's avatar

@gorillapaws I would agree. They want to remain friendly with 3rd party to a certain extent, but not 100%. Of course it never is absolutely bug-free. Oh man, the Lion threads were berserk when it first came out. I had a feeling it wouldn’t have worked on the 2008 MacBooks (white) and so I waited to save up for a bit to get the MacBookPro which ran it smoothly. Now with the emergence of Mountain Lion I’m kind of skeptical about Mac. Were still on 10.7.2 and it’s going to jump to 10.8? This summer?! Wow I mean, I understand it’s the Snow Leopard to Leopard but at least bounce to 10.7.5 update. As I recall SL went up to 10.6.6…

Plus under NDA hype builds

AlbertKinng's avatar

Apple needs to fix the OS first by their rules. When they delivered an OS to the developer most of the time they also loan a Mac with it. They r looking for bugs and just experienced users will find those bugs. When the OS became stable then the developers will be able to work around with Apple to fix their bugs.

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