Jobs has stated in a couple articles this week, one from the New York Times and one from MSNBC, that Apple will be restricting third party applications for OS X on the iPhone, unlike the open OS X platform for the Mac.
Jobs describes the iPhone operating system to be more inline with the iPod, and less like the Mac or mobile computer, stating that the risk of loading custom built applications onto the iPhone could cause the phone to just not work, or even bring down the Cingular network.
“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it, says Jobs in an interview with MSNBC. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”
Based on the presentation at MacWorld this week Jobs portrayed the iPhone as a powerful device, but could a poor programmer writing an application placed on one iPhone really bring down a portion of a cellular network? Microsoft, being quite the opposite allows applications made by anyone to be installed on their smartphone platforms which works out quite well for both those wishing to sell applications as the consumers wanting different functionality on their mobile devices.
Obviously it’s Apple’s phone and they can restrict it how they wish, but from the minute Steve Jobs announced that the new iPhone ran on the powerful OS X just like the Mac, many made the assumption that the platform would be open just like the Mac as well. I would attribute the success of many systems due to the fact that anyone could build applications for them; the internet and Windows to name a couple.
Keeping the platform locked down and only adding approved applications does have some advantages in that it does lessen the chance for viruses or poorly written applications to mess up what functionality the iPhone has, and it allows Jobs to completely control the user experience for iPhone users. It is unlikely though that the plan will actually keep everyone out. Sony has had their trouble with hackers breaking into the PSP platform, and even Apple’s iPod has been broken into and open source applications installed. There is little doubt that once people get their hands on the iPhone it will be subject to just as much if not more attempts at breaking through, and surely some will succeed.
Another issue that Jobs and Apple have needed to take into account is that since the iPhone does work as a voice communication device (I think Jobs mentioned that in his keynote speech), and it needs a service provider, in this case Cingular. If applications are installed that use the internet connection and not voice minutes or text messaging, Cingular will lose some revenue. It would be entirely possible that the iPhone incorporate VoIP functionalities and chat programs, but would Cingular have something to say about that? “There’s no reason we couldn’t have iChat on here.”, Jobs said in his MSNBC interview.
In the unveiling that Jobs presented last week the list of applications seemed a little short, including text messaging, the Safari browser, e-mail, iPhoto, Google maps and two “widgets” for weather and stock prices, with a few more expected later this year. Jobs is hoping to get one out of every 100 mobile phone units purchased in the market today, which would equate to selling 10 million handsets in 2008. Only time will tell how successful the iPhone becomes, but we most likely haven’t heard the end of the plans for Apple in this market space.