Apple’s getting better at considering their customer’s wishes and feelings with regard to the company’s services and products. They’ve embraced responsibility for the MobileMess and Steve Jobs even owned up to botching the launch. That’s a great first move from a company that has traditionally been the most locked-down and cold-shouldered company in the tech world.
But, Apple is still holding on to their deep-set roots. Apple’s official stance on the iPhone basically forbids iPhone application developers from improving on the iPhone and iPhone 3G’s fundamental feature-sets. Specifically, Apple’s iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) agreement essentially forces developers to abide by Apple’s iPhone guidelines. Third-party developers aren’t allowed to roll-out a cut-and-paste solution. Video recording is off limits. Web browsing alternatives are prohibited, and browser plug-ins are likewise barred. Apple’s iPhone development environment is one of the most open platforms out there in terms of who can develop software, but remains closed to improvement from third-parties.
That being the case, Apple has inadvertently seeded a burgeoning jailbreak market for the iPhone and iPhone 3G alike. A “jailbreak” is the process of hacking the iPhone’s filesystem to allow users to add or remove applications as they see fit. Jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a whole new world of iPhone applications that aren’t limited by Apple’s iPhone SDK.
Development tools which allow developers to craft applications that run in the background, like Apple’s own official iPhone apps (Mail, Safari, iPod, Calendar, etc.), are only available to iPhone developers aiming at the jailbroken iPhone market. Qik and Flixwagon have both released video-streaming applications for the iPhone, but only for jailbroken iPhones – Apple forbids video streaming applications, so the AppStore is not an option for Qik nor Flixwagon. And, Apple’s incessant resistance to allowing iPhone Safari plug-ins has kept a full-featured Adobe Flash player off the iPhone and iPhone 3G.
A recent admission by Apple’s Greg Joswiak confirmed that Apple is working to bring features to the iPhone that users have been calling for – namely, cut/paste functionality, turn-by-turn GPS navigation, Flash support. Unfortunately, Apple will decide when those features are launched. Appe is set on controlling the iPhone’s fundamental developmental process.
Apple’s says that their iPhone restrictions are aimed at reducing potential security hazards as well as ensuring solid iPhone-stability. But, Cupertino would do well to give in to some compromise.
A preferred developer program that allows qualified developers to access the iPhone’s more fundamental features would deal a blow to the jailbreak market. More importantly, it would allow Apple to spread the weight of developing features that they’ve taken too long to roll out. With the first revision of the next-generation iPhone OS platform already available through iTunes, Apple has yet to address most of the iPhone’s major downfalls.
Does Apple have what it takes to open itself up to consumer-demand and criticism and pull back/reduce the kinds of iPhone application restrictions that are keeping the iPhone at the mercy of Apple’s development timeline? Probably not, but there’s always hope!