Apple: "we plan to have an iPhone SDK in developers' hands in February"

Apple has finally officially announced a real SDK for the iPhone. From the Apple announcement:

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

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 multi-touch 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.

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.

There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not the dedicated iPhone hackers forced Apples’ hand on this. Looking at the Springboard breakdown, some amount of support for additional apps has been there since the beginning. The latest 1.1.1 release seems to have increased that. The question is: with the PR beating it was taking, why didn’t Apple announce this when the iPhone was initially released, and what took them so long? Only Jobs knows for sure, but announcing it from the very beginning would likely have caused some people to hold off on their purchase. As for what’s taking so long, it could be a variety of things. The latest firmware release clearly shows that the iPhone platform is still a rapidly moving target. Apple may just want things to stabilize a bit before letting others in. It will be interesting to see how Apple rolls this out. Will apps have to be digitally signed by Apple? Will the only installation mechanism be iTunes? We’ll have to wait and see. While I’m glad to see this announcement (although they really didn’t have much of a choice in the end if they wanted a truly successful product long term), it’s probably not enough for me not to switch to an OpenMoko device in December.

–jeremy

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One Response to Apple: "we plan to have an iPhone SDK in developers' hands in February"

  1. Pingback: Where’s my Gphone? at Jeremy’s Blog

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