Apple eases stand, to allow outside iPhone software

APPLE A DAY

Plugged In

October 18, 2007|By DAVID ZEILER

Apple boss Steve Jobs posted a note on the company's Web site yesterday in which he reversed the company's position by eventually allowing third-party applications to be written for the iPhone - an issue that prompted many of the controversial iPhone hacks.

While this issue has not been as contentious as the ability to unlock the iPhone for use on other cellular networks, it nevertheless had irked many, if not most, iPhone customers. This change will take the iPhone a big step closer to realizing its potential as an ultra-portable mini-computer.

It should also help repair Apple's relationship with those upset over the closed nature of the iPhone, although I doubt the people who had already hacked their phones - and had them "bricked" by Apple's recent software update to the device - will forgive the company any time soon. (I know many feel such people created their own problem by hacking the phone in the first place, but most of them blame Apple. Sigh.)

Some may still grumble because the iPhone software developers kit - the tool developers need to write programs for the iPhone - will not be available until February. In his statement Jobs counsels patience "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."

Jobs also responds to critics who had ridiculed his previous explanations about why the iPhone was a closed platform: "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."

I can't speak to how easy it might be to create malware for a mobile device such as the iPhone, but in the brief time it has been publicly available many determined people have managed both to unlock the iPhone and create unauthorized third-party applications. So I think Jobs' caution is justified.

In a "P.S." tacked on the end of his statement, Jobs says the software development kit will work with the iPod Touch. That should please many iPod Touch owners, who hadn't been nearly as vocal about this issue as had iPhone owners.

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