Apple to open iPhone to third-party developers

Apple says it is close to releasing a software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone, allowing third-party developers access to the device.

Apple to open iPhone to third-party developers

Apple has played its cards close to its chest until now, by only allowing its own applications or those from trusted partners, such as Google, on to the handset.

However, the company says it’s now preparing to reach out to other developers. “I think the software development kit (SDK) that’s going to be available for the iPhone is very interesting, because we think that with the revolutionary multi-touch interface and the phenomenal product that the iPhone is, and certainly having OS X underneath it, that it’s going to be an unbelievable platform for developers,” says Greg Joswiak, vice president of marketing at Apple in an interview with Fortune magazine.

However, Joswiak says that Apple isn’t about to throw the device open to all and sundry. “Of course what we want to make sure we’ve done is keep the phone safe and reliable, and that’s why it’s taken us a little while to get this SDK out,” he says. “Especially now that we’ll have a real SDK which means legitimate developers are going to come into the space. There are all kinds of fantastic and great things that they’re going to do.”

One of the way the company plans to keep out rogue apps is with digital signatures. “One of the things Steve [Jobs] talked about in his open letter is something Nokia’s doing, which is requiring a digital signature. That way if there’s something wrong with an application, you have a way to track it back to where it came from,” Joswiak claims. “So one of the things we want to do, again, is create a development environment that is going to maintain the security and reliability of the iPhone yet at the same time offer developers some really cool things that we can do.”

Joswiack claims the lengths developers go to create applications for the iPhone already shows there’s great demand for third-party software. “Developers see the opportunity already. You only have to look and see how many were creating iPhone applications without permission, when they actually had to break it, as it were, to do it.

“I think that was a good indication as to how much the developer community loves the iPhone, how much they see an opportunity to create great things. With the SDK, I think it’s going to bring more legitimate developers into it, as well as having the grassroots, small developers, which I think is awesome. Sometimes these one- or two-person teams have created the most dramatic things.”

Joswiak doesn’t comment on how Apple plans to serve the applications to iPhone owners, but it’s a reasonable assumption that they will only be made available through iTunes, allowing Apple to retain control over the software being downloaded on to the handsets.

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