journal: toy

Everyone wins with an open iPhone

I’m sure most of you have been following the drama regarding third-party applications on the iPhone. I won’t rehash the details, since I figure if you’re reading this site right now you know that the iPhone Update 1.1.1 breaks most of these unsupported third-party applications. Some applications are silly, others fill holes in the iPhone’ software package. The bottom line, however, is that Apple is seriously blowing a huge opportunity by not supporting third-party iPhone development.

It’s about innovation

Every year at WWDC, Apple recognizes developers who push Mac OS X to its limit and produce innovative, well-crafted applications. They call it the Apple Design Awards, and the list of winners from over the years is a veritable who’s-who of Mac developers. Without innovative third-party development, the Mac would not be what it is today--a vibrant platform with many intriguing, powerful, and innovative applications that make using a Mac downright fun.

Imagine what it would be like if theinnovators of the Mac world were able to bring their ideas and innovation to the iPhone/iPod touch platform as well. Apple put together a very slick software package with the iPhone, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just Apple at the party. There isn’t as much motivation for Apple to push the envelope in the software front without a vibrant, fully-supported developer community. A strong developer community benefits everyone--the users, Apple, and the developers--by spurring innovation and further enhancements to an already stellar product.

It’s about filling holes

As nice as the iPhone may be, there are gaps in the software provided. Yes, the iPhone supports SMS, but it doesn’t include an IM client. It doesn’t include a voice recorder--my RAZR has voice-recording capabilities, for crying out loud! A fully-supported developer community means Apple doesn’t have to go it alone. Apple can focus on the core applications--much like they do with Mac OS X now--and allow third-party developers to fill in the gaps. Again, everyone wins.

It’s about giving users what they want

Look around any Mac forum and you will see that, by and large, users love their iPhones. You may also see that users want to extend the capabilities of their iPhones beyond what it can do out of the box. While web apps can do a good number of things, many users want native applications. Users want applications that take full advantage of what the iPhone has to offer. A community of developers has tried to deliver just that, but the latest iPhone update thwarted much of their efforts. But you know what? They will try again. They will try again because there are many users out there who want an iPhone that is open to third-party development. A company that listens to its users will be much better off. Yet again, everyone wins.

It’s about being open

There’s something about closed systems that seem to turn people off. Yes, you need a Mac to run Mac OS X, but anyone can download a copy of Xcode and churn out code. Yes, you need to use iTunes to transfer music on your iPod, but any MP3 file will work on an iPod. In both of these examples, the system is partially closed, but it is still open enough that users are happy.

In the case of the iPhone, the system is not open enough for many users. These users aren’t the type who are upset because Mac OS X won’t run on a self-built PC; many of these users who want fully-supported third-party iPhone applications are die-hard Mac users. These are the people who have stuck with Apple through good times and bad. These are the people who are perfectly fine with the limitations that exist with the Mac OS and the iPod. And if this groups is upset because they feel the iPhone is too closed, then something is definitely wrong.

In closing, I would like to quote Patrick Wilson of abandonshack.com, who had this to say:

Closed systems are an incubator for stale ideas and the antithesis of innovation, and that is what you are striving to develop.

People are hungry for a more open iPhone. Apple, it’s time to listen to your users.


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thinkback

1.

Does the iPhone have some special considerations that the established Macintosh computer does not? Yes.

Daniel Eran Dilger of http://www.roughlydrafted.com says that there are two problems that Apple has which prevents an open system: security problems and crappy third party applications.

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/TechQ307/E ntries/2007/9/11_Why_Apple_May_Never_Open_the_iP hone.html

If the iPhone is as successful as Apple seems to believe then 10 million iPhones sole by the end of 2008 is just the beginning. Some analysts suggest 60 to 100 million iPhones sold in five years. It would be a disaster if they all went down from a virus. The time to squash the security bug is before you get big, So, Apple is strict now, but may loosen up later once the iPhone as a good ecosystem built up.

Daniel also says that unregulated game programs in the 1980 cheapened the brand name of early game systems because the manufacturers did not police the quality of new software.

The iPhone is three months old. I have no doubt that Apple has surprises in store for us. They are likely to sell licensed third party software through iTMS. But, Apple is likely to control the image of the iPhone.

A wide open iPhone may be useful for early adopters who tend to be hobbyists. But an open iPhone can create a situation where the general public’s interests may be harmed. This is not as simple a proposal as you think. An open iPhone maybe in your interest, but not in everyone’s as your title says.

2.

You’re right, security is a consideration, and I guess I should have defined what I mean by “open”: developers have a documented API and tools to work with, and don’t have to hack into the closed system. It doesn’t mean that the floodgates have to be open, so to speak.

So yeah, security is a consideration, but there are solutions to that. Perhaps Apple could require apps to be digitally signed by them before they can run on an iPhone? Or maybe Apple can implement something similar Microsoft’s XNA, where anyone can download the developer’s kit, but you need to register with Apple in order for the software to run on an iPhone; otherwise they can only run it on, say, a sandbox on the developer’s Mac or PC:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_XNA

The important part is this: people want third-party apps on their iPhone. It would be foolish of Apple to not support these efforts in some way. It can be done securely.

3.

I do hope that Apple will provide a means to create applications. But, I want Apple to prevent a free-for-all attitude, too.

Partly, these issues need time to resolve. Apple may have cracked the whip now because people were spouting that they had rights that do not exist. We do not know what agreements that Apple signed in the background that prevent a wide open system. Getting the iPhone going was a Herculean task; Apple may have had to make compromises to get all its ducks in a row.

What we need is some kind of vetting system where applications can be submitted for approval. The really bad software can be rejected and Apple takes a cut of the revenues generated by selling those licensed apps through its iTunes Music Store. That would be more controlled than Microsoft’s XNA. But, we don’t want to turn this into a nest for malware creators either. Do you object to such a vetting system?

4.

It would be better than how it is now, that’s for sure.

5.

Tracked: corporate event ideas

Deep Thought: Everyone wins with an open iPhone

Tracked on: corporate event ideas at 02-Feb-13 16:56 PM

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