iPhone developer bypasses App Store to sell banned Podcaster

After Apple turns down his app, Alex Sokirynsky uses iPhone beta-test mechanism to distribute his software

"I have several ideas on how to change Podcaster so that it does not duplicate iTunes, but I would need to get that approved prior to starting any work," added Sokirynsky. By his estimate, he put about two months of work into Podcaster.

But that time has apparently not been wasted.

Since Apple rejected Podcaster, Sokirynsky has been selling his software using the "Ad Hoc" method, the name Apple has given to the distribution channel it set up earlier this year as a way for developers to beta-test their iPhone applications, and for 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, the developer must obtain each iPhone's UDID (unique device identifier) code.

Sokirynsky has created a Web site to sell Podcaster directly to customers for US$9.99, twice the US$4.95 he had proposed to sell it for on Apple's App Store. During the process, buyers must submit their iPhone's UDID, then download and install the application to their computer.

He was reticent to talk about using Ad Hoc to sell Podcaster, afraid that Apple would somehow block that avenue, too. "I will just tell you that Apple said that I can share the app with friends and family using the Ad Hoc method," Sokirynsky said. "The method allows you to give the application to 100 users at a time. I don't want to get into any trouble, although it is perfectly in the limits of what Apple allows me to do."

Sokirynsky declined to reveal how many copies of Podcaster he had sold, but Niall Kennedy, a technology consultant and president of Hat Trick Media, said that as of Monday, Sokirynsky had provisioned 1,130 devices using 12 different builds hosted on Google Code.

Kennedy, who advises clients on iPhone development issues, said Sokirynsky was "stretching the Ad-Hoc distribution model a bit," but that Apple had not yet reacted by, for example, pulling Sokirynsky's developer credentials or somehow banning Podcaster from iPhones.

Apple could conceivably disable the application by using the iPhone's "kill switch," a feature that would let the vendor remotely cripple potentially malicious applications. Last month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirmed that the iPhone 2.0 software included a kill switch capability.

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