The iPhone and iTouch are to get a Software Developers Kit in February next year, allowing developers to create proper native applications for the platform and allowing it to properly compete with other smart phones, Steve Jobs announced on the company's website today. Just four months after declaring that "...no software …
Hurray for tight control
Personally I hope that Apple keeps relatively tight control on what is and isn't allowed on the iPhone. I've always been of the opinion that the reason why smartphones never take off with the general public is that while there is a vast array of third party software, it's just too darn confusing.
I never want to have to wade through a variety of World Clocks, Diet Calorie Counters, CD Collection Organisers, and other assorted crap in a vain attempt to find useful, free or reasonably priced software.
If it means that everyone who releases a piece of software has to pay Apple - so be it. At least it will keep the quality control tight.
Still, this is great news, if not entirely unexpected. It means I'm definitely going to buy an iPhone in November, whereas I was going to wait for a reliable non-bricking unlocking mechanism. Yay!
SDK to the rescue
Wonder how this is going to play out. After the whole 'pay twice for a ringtone' money leech routine, I doubt they will make 'approving' your application affordable, at least not from a personal hobbyist developer's standpoint.
Nokia more open than he thinks
If the E61 etc series counts as "the newer phones" then the requirement for digitally signed 3rd party apps can be disabled easily enough in the phone's settings.
it doesn't really matter now
However the official SDK plays out, there are already third-party applications and installers for the iPhone and iPod touch - something about barn doors comes to mind. These third-party apps are quite decent and show a lot of promise for an odd month of development time. Installing VNC and OpenSSH through an inbuilt installer app was painless.
Re: Nokia more open than he thinks
That's not entirely true Dominic. You can allow "self signed" apps to be installed by changing a menu setting which grants the application. This allows you to install applications with very basic capabilities (LocalServices,• UserEnvironment,• NetworkServices, ReadUserData,WriteUserData).
On install, the user is told about the basic capabilities that the app requires and can abort or continue to install. (Bruce Shneier has some good material on his blog regarding the problems with asking the user to make security decisions).
A posting on forum nokia indicates that around 60% of the APIs on S60 are available to self signed applications, which does actually give then developer a fair set of APIs to play with. You can draw to the screen, pop up dialogs, persist data to the app's home directory and quite a bit more.
Sensitive services (meaning - access to user's personal data, location or services that can spend money) are only available through the Symbian signed process.
The option that you are seeing on the E61 can be configured by the handset manufacturer/operator. In fact, if they wish, they can hardcode devices to only allow Symbian signed apps if they feel that the self signed criterion is too liberal.
I think it's sensible that Apple at least wait until they get the security model raionalised and tested by their close partners before opening up the phone. It's very hard to close off an API after it has been open and used and relied on by 3rd parties.
When building a open device, you want some level of sandboxing not just for security marshalling but also to allow the core code to evolve and be re-factored without breaking 3rd party apps in each update. If I was Steve - I wouldn't rush anything either.
Would it have really been so bad to stick Java on the iPhone? I've got a handful of Java mobile apps I wrote for myself that I don't want to be without.
They got the hint
Nice to see S.Jobs finally got the hint that a locked item will get hacked regardless of what Apple says.
Just as long as they don't get tips from Sony on how to utilize protection they should be OK.
...is good, as hopefully it'll mean reliable apps like on a Mac, not a free for all pot of shite available.
You're right...on the Mac platform there is neither a free for all nor shite available and everything is reliable, since XCode is tightly controlled and you can only find DMGs and packages to install applications from official Apple distribution channels.
Considering that eWeek reported a couple of weeks ago that all apps on the iPhone run with full root privileges (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2191373,00.asp), I have to question how tight Apple's controls on third-party apps will (or could) be.
I'm not interested in the phone, and I prefer having room to carry more music, but a Touch for working while on the road, in lieu of a laptop, appeals to me. But not until there's a way to lock it down so that *I* know, and have some control over, what it's allowing in.
Re: Nokia more open than he thinks
I'm sure you're right, Twm - evidently it's just as well that I have a specialist on my team to understand such things better than I do. However, exact details notwithstanding, the net effect is that with self-signed apps enabled Joe Public User can indeed install any old application, utility or game (a 3D version of the classic Snake game seems a particular favourite with our engineers), whatever its provenance, which is exactly what Uncle Steve's letter says can't be done:
"Nokia, for example, 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"
Nice to see that the reality distortion field is still hard at work.