Saturday, 01 March 2008 17:03

Apple's iPhone SDK: curiouser and curiouser

Early reports that Apple would seek to exert quality control over paid third-party apps to be distributed through iTunes appear to be true, although other reports suggest such strict scrutiny will not apply to free apps – with all to be revealed on March 6.
Yes, iLounge has reported that Apple will only allow third-party apps it authorises to be sold and distributed via iTunes, while Electronista suggests free apps will be treated differently.

iLounge says that developers won’t get access to the iPhone or iPod Touch dock connector, but will get access to the camera, Wi-Fi and other iPhone internals – presumably free apps won’t get access to the dock connecter either.

One thing we do know from years of third-party application development for the Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian and other platforms is that developers have created third-party software in abundance, and the flood of unauthorised pre-SDK iPhone and iPod Touch software suggests the same will occur for Apple’s handhelds once the SDK doors are opened.

For the iPhone, there’s also speculation as to whether third-party developers will get full access to the iPhone’s Bluetooth module, something that could open up the iPhone to A2DP Bluetooth stereo headsets and Bluetooth keyboards, but until March 6, only Apple’s inner circle truly knows.

There’s also strong suggestions that the iPhone SDK will only be released as ‘beta’ software, meaning the full SDK will come later in the year, probably coupled with a new firmware update.

It would be an enormous shame if Apple’s SDK restrictions end up being too restrictive. Developers have shown they don’t really need Apple’s SDK to create applications – but it’s always nice to do things in a legal, authorised fashion, especially if you want to sell or give away software that doesn’t require ‘jailbreaking’ of the iPhone or iPod Touch.

It has also been suggested that Apple would take a cut from every software sale distributed through iTunes, but given that Apple will presumably be hosting the software and paying for the bandwidth to distribute it, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Apple’s desire to only allow apps they’ve authorised for sale is clear: the stability and security of the iPhone, and the experience it delivers, is at stake.

Already rogue third-party software exists for the iPhone in the form of a fake 1.1.3 firmware updater which deletes important files upon uninstallation, causing affected iPhone owners to restore their phones and potentially losing all their unsynchronised data in the process.

Can Apple's SDK truly prevent iPhone malware? Please read onto page 2.

It seems clear that Apple will do its utmost to safeguard the iPhone and its users, ensuring software is up to standard and won’t cause problems with memory, security or (hopefully) anything else.

Steve Jobs spoke of this when first announcing an SDK would arrive in February 2008, and also alluded to Nokia’s model of requiring apps to be ‘signed’ before becoming installable.

Given that only a very small number of viruses and malware have appeared on phones and handheld devices, unlike the tsunami of terrifying malware for Windows PCs, it’s important to try and nip the malware menace in the bud lest our expensive handheld devices and phones become expensive bricks.

Exactly what Steve Jobs announces on March 6 will inevitably the subject of much discussion for days, if not weeks, thereafter, as will his efforts to keep his handhelds malware-free.

There are still plenty of questions, existing restrictions and missing features.

Let’s hope March 6 delivers a powerful SDK with all the answers we’ve all been waiting for, so we can join Alice - and Apple - in an even more exiting iPhone Wonderland.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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