Apple Announces iPhone Developer Kit But Refuses To Really Open The iPhone - InformationWeek

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10/17/2007
12:38 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Apple Announces iPhone Developer Kit But Refuses To Really Open The iPhone

Looks like the iPhone could open up a little bit more starting next year. According to an announcement on Apple's site, the company plans to have a Software Developer's Kit (SDK) available in February 2008. This kit will also enable developers to create apps for the iPod Touch. While this is a step in the right direction, is it enough?

Looks like the iPhone could open up a little bit more starting next year. According to an announcement on Apple's site, the company plans to have a Software Developer's Kit (SDK) available in February 2008. This kit will also enable developers to create apps for the iPod Touch. While this is a step in the right direction, is it enough?Here is a look at the note on Apple's site, straight from Steve Jobs himself:

Let me just say it: We want native third-party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third-party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multitouch interface, powerful hardware, and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we're trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once -- provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones -- this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

So, Mr. Jobs is really worried about viruses and malware on the iPhone? If Apple is so worried about its users, why did it go out of its way to turn thousands of Apple iPhones into bricks? Does Apple really expect us to believe that it cares about its customers after this move?

I don't buy it. If Apple is so good at keeping hackers from harming the iPhone, how come hackers have been able to consistantly hack the iPhone time and time again? If these same hackers can crack the SIM lock, they can surely cook up viruses and other forms of malware for the iPhone. Leave security to companies that know how to it, Steve, and focus on making the iPhone a truly open developer platform.

Looks to me like Steve Jobs is still trying to have his cake and eat it too. While launching an SDK is definitely a step in the right direction, it's not good enough. Jobs wants to maintain his tight grip on the iPhone experience by controlling the developer community and how the applications will work. Sorry, but that's not how mobile developer communities should operate.

And in a brilliant stroke, Jobs tries to deflect criticism away from Apple by pointing out that rival Nokia require digital signatures for its apps. Take a look:

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than "totally open," we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone's amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

Obviously, Nokia's marketing campaign touting its open devices and open platforms is getting to Apple. Sorry, Steve, but Nokia's digital signature process isn't as controlling as the process you're describing on your site. Unless your SDK and developer program are more open, I don't think this move will be enough.

What do you think? Will Apple's SDK be enough? Or will Apple still try to be too controlling?

And for more on the push to open the Apple iPhone, check out this debate between me and my colleague, Alex Wolfe:

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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