June 12, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Apple opens iPhone to developers--kind of

Smart-phone developers learned Monday that they won't be shut out of Apple's iPhone. But they're going to have to wait for the red carpet.

CEO Steve Jobs announced during his keynote address at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco that developers of third-party applications will be able to create Web applications for the iPhone using Safari, Apple's Web browser.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

This gives developers the chance to create iPhone applications using common Web development standards such as Ajax ahead of the device's June 29 launch. As a bonus, those applications will also work on Windows now that Safari will run on Microsoft's operating system.

But this is not what many mobile developers were hoping to hear. Unlike other mobile-phone makers, Apple has chosen not to set up a software development kit or support community for iPhone applications at this time.

Call it the iPhone compromise--Apple is giving developers a chance to get their wares on the iPhone, but not every application will work properly inside a browser without native support. The decision means Apple has a better chance of guaranteeing application security and reliability on the native applications it does allow on the iPhone, but it falls short of what other smart-phone companies--notably Nokia--offer mobile-application developers.

"It's a neat starting point, but I don't call this really third-party app support."
--Daniel Graf, founder and CEO, Kyte

"It's a first small step in the right direction, but they have many more steps they need to follow," said Daniel Graf, founder and CEO of Kyte, which allows mobile-phone users to share videos and photos.

When Apple unveiled the iPhone in January, Jobs hinted that Apple would be the only game in town for iPhone application development. He seemed concerned that a rash of third-party applications could create security and reliability problems that could derail Apple's first attempt at cracking the smart-phone market.

But at the D: All Things Digital conference in May, Jobs appeared to signal that he was amenable to third-party application support, which has been an important factor in the success of other mobile devices. This had developers eager to get their hands on a software development kit. They're going to have to wait.

The Web application compromise "is probably the way to go," said one developer for a major financial services company who asked not to be identified. It avoids the potential problems that might come with allowing full iPhone development too soon, he said.

roundup
Apple kicks off WWDC with Jobs speech
Developers have two big things on their minds: the iPhone and the Leopard OS.

Apple's plan allows the iPhone to quickly take advantage of added features that Apple doesn't have the time or willingness to develop itself, without the risk that poorly written programs could hurt the device's stability, said Mike McGuire, an analyst with Gartner. It also allows Apple to take advantage of the groundswell of interest in developing new Web applications.

"A lot of the interesting stuff out there right now are these Web 2.0 apps," he said. "Go where the momentum is."

But if Apple really wants the iPhone to be a widespread success against smart phones already in the market from companies like Nokia, it will have to create a developer community like the one it's entertaining this week in San Francisco, Graf said.

"It's a neat starting point, but I don't call this really third-party app support," Graf said. "Third-party application support means you can do a Java app, or Windows Mobile app, or BREW (binary runtime environment for wireless), and then you can take advantage of the phone's capabilities." Graf said he doesn't think his company's photo-sharing application will work without native support.

The financial services developer said he would be disappointed if Apple didn't eventually allow native iPhone apps. "Some people would want to go deeper," he said, noting that there are things developers would want to do that can't be done with an Ajax application. "I would hope they would open it up in a more compelling way at some point."

As for his company, he said the amount of time devoted to the iPhone depends on whether the firm decides to make the iPhone a fully supported platform, like the BlackBerry is currently. Whether the device earns that status depends in large part on how many iPhones Apple can sell, and what kind of people end up buying them. "Big corporations are conservative that way," he said.

And in a way, many application developers will also take a wait-and-see attitude with the iPhone, said Todd Kort, an industry consultant who has tracked mobile devices for years. Sales volume will help determine the speed of iPhone application development, and many influential factors that have yet to be fully tested, such as battery life, will help determine the iPhone's fate, he said.

Over time, however, developing a vibrant developer community is a must for any computing platform, be it Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Palm and mobile phones, Graf said.

"Look at the development arm of Nokia, they have 3 million active developers and mobile applications are nowhere yet," he said. "If Apple did anything like that for the iPhone, it would be huge."

 
Correction: This story misstated the last name of Kyte's founder and chief executive. He is Daniel Graf.

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36 comments

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In other words, no.
In other words, the iPhone will remain an expensive toy unless/until they change their mind. Looks like I will be replacing my Treo with a Windows Mobile phone afterall.
Posted by Siegfried Schtauffen (269 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Checked out the Toshiba G900?
Or the HTC Touch? TyTn?
ETEN X500+?
Or the iMate Ultimate line?
Lots to choose from in the WM6 design space.
And they all come with a zillion apps proven stable and secure.

In other words for theiPhone, "stability and security" = lock up the hardware until we fully debug the OS and milk early adopters for all their loose change.
Posted by -fjtorres- (226 comments )
Link Flag
Yup.
Palm says they quit, Symbian requires some sort of authorization, Windows Mobile is getting worse over time (It peaked at WM 2003 SE and I regret my upgrade) and it seems the devices are getting less useful.

There is room for someone who takes users seriously. Looks like Apple isn't going to the one.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
Link Flag
Toy For You, Asset for Me
If WM is your thing, fine for you and good luck with your purchase.
For myself, I'm willing to take the chance that the iPhone will play
perfectly with my MacBook, MacPro and related Apple SW.
Posted by cgpublic (12 comments )
Link Flag
Web apps
Google receives oodles of compliments for their web applications. Yet people don't get that iPhone is the first smart phone platform that allows the same thing.

This is brilliant. Those third party developers who don't get this are simply upset because their products cannot be ported over easily.
Posted by Sonicsands (43 comments )
Link Flag
What's the good of Apps "if"
if the device has limited OS that's not sound and robust
and be able to communicate well with PC and other devices
This is why Safari and OSX has over other so called smart phones.
By the way how has Nokia have 3 million developers for a phone
with only a few thousand lines of code, Nokia have 2.5 million more
developers for Windows which has over 50 million lines of code.
Posted by Sniche (108 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The carrier makes a difference
Isn't T-mobile notorious for locking their phones to outside apps?
My experiences with 3rd party WM apps are solid. No crashes whatsoever.
But then, I don't have T-Mobile...
YMMV.
Posted by -fjtorres- (226 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Useless
No exchange support (imap is not going to do what outlook people need to do)

no wireless sync support

No true 3rd party app support

No replaceable battery

No ability to add additional storage (sd card)

No office support (word, excel, etc)

Shall I go on?

Oooh, pretty interface, can run the same interface on my XV6700 w/ all the same transition effects...Only cost me 200 bux w/ a 1 year contract.

Supports Exchange

Supports wireless sync

Supports true 3rd party apps (10's of thousands)

Supports Office

Supports PDF

Replaceable battery

Supports additional storage


Again, shall I go on?
Posted by rlith (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another M$ lover and Apple basher
No exchange support (imap is not going to do what outlook people need to do)

A: Exchange is horrible and outlook is doo doo
and I'm an Exchange admin.

no wireless sync support

A: What are you smoking?

No true 3rd party app support

A: Not entirely true and heaven for bid Jobs opens this up just like that great operating system known as Windows mobile, Oh wait.... It's not a REAL or entire OS. The iPhone is.

No replaceable battery

A; Deal with it.... Purchase the Apple 3 yr warranty and get it replaced.

people are getting iPod batteries replaced all the time, same thing for the iPhone.

No ability to add additional storage (sd card)

A: So what you have 4GB or 8GB's deal with it.

No office support (word, excel, etc)

A: Crap, crap, and more crap, Why would you place applications that require constant patching to fill the many, many, holes and bugs in it, Oh wait, yet another M$ product,


SHALL I GO ON?? I think NOT I don't want to embarrass you any more.

Shall I go on? Oooh, pretty interface, can run the same interface on my XV6700 w/ all the same transition effects...Only cost me 200 bux w/ a 1 year contract. Supports Exchange Supports wireless sync Supports true 3rd party apps (10's of thousands) Supports Office Supports PDF Replaceable battery Supports additional storage Again, shall I go on?
Posted by buffer_overflow (35 comments )
Link Flag
Steve made the right decision
Let's look at this from Steve Jobs's point of view. Who does he have to answer to? Apple shareholders (which means, ultimately, Apple users and potential users). It is a lot more likely that a phone will be involved in a life-and-death situation than a computer. Can you call 911 from your computer? No, but you can from an iPhone.

One of the reasons the Mac is gaining in popularity is because it is robust. If the iPhone turned out to be as unstable as WM (see above), it would be a tremendous mark against it, and sales would suffer dramatically. By limiting access to the guts of the phone, I'm sure that it will be more stable, translating to increased sales.

With Microsoft's CEO, it's "developers, developers, developers." With Apple's CEO, it's "users, users, users." Look at each company's stock for the last couple of years and tell me who you think is on the right track.
Posted by Norseman (1319 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yanking the carrot away
I agree, if they want the phone to be successful, it needs to lock itself down and only allow applications that are developed internally or through this AJAX interface once approved by Apple before installation on their device. Apple is the one that will get the blame if a third party app crashes a user's phone even if it's not their fault. It's their device so they will get blamed by association.

Get it out there into the public's hands, let it stabilize, then see about opening it up.

Unfortunately Jobs has dangled the carrot about opening the phone several times now only to go back on his word and yank that same carrot back. His credibility amongst developers is failing fast as a result.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
No 'sorta' about it
Geez, what a misleading story. Jobs made the point that if you
can code Web 2.0 or Ajax, the iPhone will be a breeze. And it
uses the security and features already available in Safari and the
Mac OS, including core animation.

This is a superb and robust choice to get developers up and
running quickly, producing secure useful programs using their
existing skillset and not having to learn a new SDK.

Once again, Apple is visionary -- and critics can't or won't GET
IT.
Posted by avfolk--2008 (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Keep drinking the koolaid...
I just love all of this banter about how limitations in the iPhone are now a "features". If this were a Microsoft product all of you Apple fanboys would be singing a different tune. "Microsoft is so evil! They won't publish their APIs! It's unfair!"

When the hype dies down this will be another PS3 story...
Posted by kojacked (1129 comments )
Link Flag
Have to agree... WM5 is teh suck!
My HTC "Apache" crashes all the time. It gets worse when I install
anything on it. About the only two applications that I will put on it
now are gsplayer and Total Commander. Both are freeware.

This thing is becoming a boat anchor the day I get my iPhone. And
I just may write a few .NET applications to run on the iPhone :)
Posted by chassoto--2008 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google Docs work for office docs?
Pretend that Safari was compatible with google docs - seems like that would provide office support on the iPhone.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Reply Link Flag
People, Just use the device that gives you the most bang for your dollar
My HTC 8125 (Cingular/ATT) phone has been rock solid with WM5. It came out around 2005 and still does more than the iPhone (not the Cisco one). Plus it cost me $99. The keyboard is a must have for texting and is just big enough. So spend that money and keep the economy rolling.
Posted by RTFM (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Name A Single 'Must Have' Third Party App for Palm
As a long time Palm and present Treo owner, I can't think of a
single third party app that significantly improved the basic
functionality of the platform. Take a peek at what is presently
offered by third parties, and 95% is pure garbage. Why should
Apple risk undermining the entire user experience so third parties
can 'improve' the UI. Let them develop within a sandbox and
provide real user benefits instead of UI eye candy.
Posted by cgpublic (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Third Party Apps
Agreed. I have a T-Mobile Dash and the way I use it, I haven't needed any 3rd party apps. It works great, can't remember the last time I had to reset it.

Apple is doing the correct thing by locking it down. First impressions and all that. Plus, since it's using OS X, won't it have Quick Look? That means (like my Dash) you probably view documents like pdfs, Microsoft Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, you just can't MANIPULATE them. That's all I need on my Dash (again for how I need to use it).

I'm starting to play with Google Docs, trying to see if I can build online then download to my phone. If I get it to work with my Dash then I've no doubt (with Apple's good working relationship with Google) that it will work for the iPhone.

But I'll wait for at least one more version of the iPhone before I will even consider changing phones. T-Mobile has been very very good for me.
Posted by Jeremiah256 (28 comments )
Link Flag
Huh, Exchange can run for a year, easy
if you configure it right and put it on the right hardware for the amount of load its going to take on for your organization. your not the first admin ive seen throw exchange out the door cause you didnt know how to use it. never understood that. licensing really isnt that exspensive either but if you want some trimmed down email server be our guess. is your staff getting non monochrome monitors soon too?
Posted by pcpimpster (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
goo
"Thanks for uploading this, it gave me something to read on my lunch break."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iphonetools.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.iphonetools.org</a>
Posted by shark12er (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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