The iPhone Sandbox


I guess tomorrow we'll see the mythical iPhone SDK from Apple, though today there's news that Flash won't be supported anytime soon for various arbitrary reasons. It makes me wonder how extensive the SDK will actually be. Native applications on Windows Mobile or Symbian can do just about anything they want to: replacing the UI, sending SMS messages, managing network connections, using the dock and ports, etc. One would think that if the SDK was sufficiently extensive, and the iPhone a real platform, that Adobe would be able to port Flash themselves and plug it into Safari with or without Apple's input. But it seems it's going to be much more locked down than this.

I personally don't care if Apple opens up their SDK or not - it's their proprietary platform and they get to decide. They're hardly a monopoly and no one is being forced to buy an iPhone, so it's their choice. What bothers me is the inevitable Orwellian doublespeak we're going to hear from Jobs about the SDK and what it does: Closed is open, limitations are choices, least is most, restrictions equals opportunity... you get the idea.

Because the zealots will parrot whatever Jobs says and Valley digerati won't think about what the truth is when it comes to iPhone development, people will continue focus their effort on it. Developer time/effort is a finite resource, this means that undeserved iPhone focus will inevitably take away from platforms that are truly open like Maemo or mobile linux. Case in point - check out O'Reilly's ETech conference going on now. The very first session is on hacking the iPhone (a technically illegal and ultimately fruitless effort for developers), on equal footing with an Android session, and then session on Thursday about OpenMoko four days later. Wouldn't sessions just focusing on mobile development using actually open mobile development platforms been better? I think so.

Anyways, we'll see tomorrow how badly Apple has locked down the SDK - but right now it looks like it'll be no more than a glorified sandbox with little or no access to the underlying OS or hardware. It would be wonderful if developers turned their noses up at it completely, and the pundits called Apple out for the bullshit we're inevitably going to hear, but that's very wishful thinking.


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