ad hoc distribution UDID

Apple is about to add a third device to their iPhone OS family, the iPad, but so far developers are still limited to 100 UDID "slots" for ad-hoc distribution (aka beta testing), leading Craig Hockenberry of the Icon Factory to wonder on his blog if the "crunch" is coming.

Let's say you (or your company) has a developer account with Apple, two popular iPhone/iPod touch apps, and are about to release an iPad app. That's three apps total. But all you get are 100 slots total -- not per app, not per-user, not 100 for iPhone and 100 for iPad. Total. So if you have 5 developers in-house and each wants to test on all three iPhone OS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad), that's 15 slots gone already. If you want to maintain compatibility with older devices like the iPhone 2G or the iPod touch G1, you might need slots for those as well. If anyone has replaced a lost or broken device, or had one swapped out under warranty, that means a new UDID and another slot taken. We could be up to 20 slots gone already.

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If you have beta testers, the problem scales. Each device each tester has comes with a UDID and takes a slot. If you want to maximize your beta testers, that could be 3 slots each (one for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) and perhaps more if they have old iPhones or iPod touches, or if they're replaced a device. That means 15-20 beta testers can consume every slot you have left. Sure you could stretch that out by only having each tester register 1 device but that adds complexity and still only delays hitting the limit.

Further compounding the problem is that Apple only frees up the UDID slots once a year, so any lost devices, developers who have left the company, or beta testers who have dropped out can equate to wasted slots just sitting there for up to a year.

With the iPad launch, it means any developer whose already maxed out and whose slots don't free up before April 3 is in a tough spot. They can't register any new UDIDs, which means they can't register any iPads to test on. That's not only bad for them, it's bad for users who expect well-tested, well-polished apps and games.

Hockenberry thinks there's a better system for Apple to adopt:

A tweet from Mike Piontek crystalized this thought: the limitation for Ad Hoc provisioning should be based around individuals, not the devices that they own. It makes more sense to regulate Apple IDs rather than UDIDs. I want John Gruber to be able to run my apps on whatever devices he currently owns. I want to put my own name on the provisioning list and enable the five iPhone OS devices sitting on my desk. All that Apple cares about is that are only 98 other people besides Gruber and me.

And he points out it's not just developers but those same Fortune 100 companies Apple often touts who would benefit:

(I suspect that Enterprise IT has similar problems and would welcome a solution based on employees rather than the hardware they own. I can only imagine the headaches of managing thousands of devices.)

If you're a developer, let us know if the ad-hoc crunch is a concern and what, if anything, you're doing to handle the oncoming iPad UDID storm.