Yesterday Hackulo.us released Crackulous, which strips the DRM protection from iPhone applications. This allows any application bought from the App Store to run on any other iPhone. Writing about this, The Unofficial Apple Weblog has gone with “Crackulous is released, chaos imminent”. I don’t buy that.
It is likely that torrents and websites of cracked iPhone apps will become more readily available, from which they can be easily dropped into your iPhone via iTunes or SSH. But they are available already. Cracked .ipa files and cracking software have been obtainable for a while. Crackulous is just a GUI wrapper for x-crack, simplifying the process of stripping the DRM.
Ewan Spence has written a good article about this over at All About Symbian. The short version is that every DRM scheme can be broken (eventually) and that every platform has piracy. But I think that iPhone developers may be less likely to suffer from piracy than other platforms. Why?
- Cracked games are only available to users with jailbroken iPhones – and although the process is easy, jailbroken iPhones are in the minority.
- Unlike other platforms, there is only one official distribution channel – the App Store. The singular ease of buying apps from this store will dissuade many from obtaining pirated software. Plus most of the apps are cheap. (Also, an app must be purchased before it can be cracked, but it only takes one person to make it available).
The makers of Crackulous claim that the software is to enable people to try apps before they buy, because Apple does not allow trial iPhone applications. This is a bogus argument, and no justification. The test will come when Apple changes the App Store to allow trials, as I believe it will at some point. Will Crackulous then be removed from distribution? I doubt it.
So, given that piracy comes to every platform, I don’t think the release of this tool is too much to worry about. That’s easy for me to say, because my livelihood doesn’t depend on selling software. But I don’t believe that one pirated app equals one lost sale. People who install cracked software were, in my opinion, far less likely to ever buy that software in the first place. The App Store, whatever its faults, has driven 500 million sales to date. That’s not to say that some developers won’t lose out – there will be some lost sales. Plus Apple could do more to give developers better access to their end-customers, as well as implement a trial system. But quality software that is developed with skill and dedication will always sell.
By the way, if you think that reporting on this in some way promotes software piracy or aids crackers, go and read Schneier for a while. Security through obscurity does not work.