Electronista goes rummaging through the license agreement of iPhone’s SDK and comes up with this clause restricting allowed uses of the included location-based APIs:
Applications [that use location-based APIs] may not be designed or marketed for real time route guidance; automatic or autonomous control of vehicles, aircraft, or other mechanical devices; dispatch or fleet management; or emergency or life-saving purposes.
The blog then goes on to speculate that this may be a way for Apple to prevent rivals from building navigation software for the iPhone.
You may not use the Service with any products, systems, or applications installed or otherwise connected to or in communication with vehicles for or in connection with: (a) real time route guidance (including without limitation, turn-by-turn route guidance and other routing that is enabled through the use of a sensor); (b) any systems or functions for automatic or autonomous control of vehicle behavior; or (c) dispatch, fleet management or similar applications.
Their similarity prompted me to suspect that perhaps there is a regulatory cause for such clauses, rather than an attempt to stifle competition (which frankly, makes no sense, not for Google and certainly not for Apple, which is invested in making the platform a success. It would as nonsensical as prohibiting video editing applications on Mac OS X to protect Final Cut Pro.)
After some asking around, however, it’s been suggested that there are two other reasons why a clause restricting the use of mapping tools might find itself in a license agreement:
- Liability protection: There is no need for government regulations preventing unsafe use of a tool when lawyers are all too happy to punish corporate “enablers” of such uses via lawsuits. Hence a ban on uses that may put you or others in harm’s way.
- Licensing issues: iPhone’s built-in map tools use Google Maps tiles built with data from third party providers. It’s a standing assumption in the GIS world that such data is cheaper to license by Google et al. if it does not end up repurposed to compete with professional tools.
In sum, Apple doesn’t want to get sued for people with iPhones doing dumb, dangerous or daring things, such as flying one’s ultralight using an iPhone autopilot. (I’d really like to see somebody try that, though:-)