Cupertino, Calif. – Apple will open up its iPhone and iPod Touch to third-party developers who will be able to write native applications for the devices.
The decision in effect will turn the iPhone into a smartphone after Apple finishes up development of a software development kit (SDK), which it expects to make available in February 2008.
The plan reverses Apple’s previous announcement that only third-party Web 2.0-based applications, which reside on the Web, would be allowed to run on the iPhone. At the time, Apple contended that Web 2.0 apps “look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone” and opening up the phone to native applications would make it vulnerable to viruses, malware, and privacy attacks.
However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement that Apple can balance security with third-party native applications. “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.”
It will take until February to get the SDK in developers’ hands, he contended, 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.,” he said. “This is no easy task.” Viruses and malware are a serious problem for mobile phones, he contended. “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.”
Jobs hinted at a possible way to secure third-party iPhone apps. Nokia, he noted, “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.”