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Article: The iPhone SDK…Almost a Week Later

by on March 12, 2008

We’ve taken our time commenting on the iPhone software development kit as we’ve been on vacation and working on some other fun side projects. However, we’re here to weigh in on things after just a week of the software being available. Better late than never, right?

First, the idea is brilliant. If Apple had offered something like this years ago for the iPod, who knows where we’d be now. People might not have had to resort to Linux on the iPod to increase functionality. Over a year after the iPhone was first demonstrated, we finally see the ability for people to add things to Apple’s pseudo-computer. The software itself is advertised as allowing developers use of the same resources Apple uses for development of their own iPhone software. Pretty cool, however, in order to run it, you must be using a newer Mac—one powered by an Intel processor to be exact.

Next, we’re still a bit torn on the distribution model Apple is employing for the iPhone’s software. Rather than letting people put it anywhere on the ‘net and downloading it, Apple has created an online store specifically for iPhone (and iPod Touch) apps. It costs $99/year to be in the developer program, and Apple gets a 30% cut on whatever you make on the software. Free software stays free. This isn’t bad, considering that all the work/marketing is done for you, but some have criticized the new model for software—especially free software—distribution. Some might ask why you can’t just upload software to your web site and allow people to download it. You could, but in order to install things, you must use the App Store.

Another issue that has cropped up lately is the policies Apple has towards competitors, such as Firefox, Opera, possibly Skype, Office, Javascript, Java, and numerous other things. This is due to the fact that the iPhone SDK’s legal agreement states:

“No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)…An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise.”

Many think this is designed to prevent people from using alternative browsers, software to unlock the iPhone, or VoIP software rather than AT&T’s service. YouTube uses more network power, so Apple really has no arguments for blocking the capabilities.

People have been interested in the software though. Over 100,000 copies of the SDK have already been downloaded, and many more are expected to find their way onto developer’s desktops. Right now it’s still up in the air whether or not the iPhone will remain a semi-closed platform, or developers will be able to make it a viable pocket computer. If not, the Treos, Blackberries, and Windows Mobile devices won’t be dead yet.

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