Web2Summit: Apple announces iPhone SDK… Will third-party media apps be welcome?

Steve Jobs just announced that the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) will be released in February. This wasn’t a Web2.0 Summit announcement, but may be good news for everybody hoping to bring technology to Apple’s platform.

His announcement provides no details about the SDK itself, and Jobs makes it clear that the platform won’t be completely open. While he says that this is to balance the benefits of an open platform with user security protection, it’s unclear where Apple will draw those lines. Will there be a Skype client? Third-party media apps?

It would have been better if Apple had announced this when it released the iPhone. I’m hopeful that Apple will now embrace the existing iPhone developer community, and won’t use “security” as a way to keep potential competitors off its platform.

(See Marc Hedlund’s earlier post about opening the iPhone platform)

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  • Matt Craig

    At what point does “security” become a non-issue? When the lack of it provides some cool apps? Apple, and every other OS vendor gets hammered for not patching security exploits… UNLESS they are used to add apps to the iPhone. The “existing iPhone developer community” is made possible by exploiting a security flaw that could also be used for malicious purposes. In any other context Apple would get hammered by allowing a way to get root access possible. But not with iPhone. Patching iPhone security holes is Apple being vindictive, but if they exist in Tiger, then they’re “long overdue”. If security is to be taken seriously, then it applies to ALL applications, benevolent or benign.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they middle road that they take is signed apps (a la Vista signed drivers). If you want to do something that could be exploited, Apple could require that they sign your app for you.

    Of course this would be the death of anything that apple doesn’t like which is to say, don’t expect an alternative media player any time soon.

  • “It would have been better if Apple had announced this when it released the iPhone.” What do you mean by “better”? Remember, Apple is venturing into new territory (the cellular world) with the iPhone. When trying something new, it’s almost always better (where “better” means delivering a quality experience to the end user) to start simple.

    Once you’ve got your feet wet, then you can start to add in additional capabilities (i.e. APIs for third parties). It seems to me like Apple handled things the proper way: make sure the iPhone itself is launched successfully and then focus on providing third-party access in a secure manner.

  • @Matt: Interesting point.

    @Kyle: By better, what I mean is it’s better to make a public commitment to support developers in the future from the beginning.

  • Perhaps, but only if you 100% know that you’ll actually be able to deliver that support. We all know how things work in the IT world: under promise and over deliver.

  • It looks like the answer from Apple about this is a resounding “NO!”, which is sad but not unexpected. Platforms must be open to competition or they perish.

    See the sad story of the Podcaster iPhone app here.