The truth about the iPhone's lack of SDK

iPhoneYou must have heard about the uproar over the iPhone by now. If you have not, the official word straight from Apple in its news release goes like this: “Third-party applications created using Web 2.0 standards can extend iPhone’s capabilities without compromising its reliability or security.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read between the lines and realize what it meant is that third-party developers will not be able to write the native iPhone applications that they have been salivating over. sums the sentiments of iPhone developers best in its report on Apple opens iPhone to developers – kind of

… at the D: All Things Digital conference in May, Jobs appeared to signal that he was amenable to third-party application support, which has been an important factor in the success of other mobile devices. This had developers eager to get their hands on a software development kit.

As it is, the only way to “program” an iPhone now appears to be via Web applications. Web 2.0 is supported via the browser, no doubt, but just a Web application nevertheless. I leave it to the other wonderful tech sites to explain why non-native apps alone just doesn’t cut it.

Instead, let us examine the bottom-line instead: Why did it happen this way? What went wrong? I present to you two possibilities.

The first is that there never was an intention to allow the iPhone to run third-party applications. Honestly, Steve Jobs never did promise that either. However, he never did outright deny the possibility. Was it all just part of a grand strategy to generate additional hype for the iPhone?

The other and altogether more intriguing possibility is that the difficulties encountered in creating Apple’s first smartphone device proved to be harder than anticipated. Check out my earlier posting on Why Apple won't sell 10 million iPhones in 2008. In it, I referenced Microsoft's de facto spokesman in the UK of all things PocketPC, Jason Langridge. He spoke of just how difficult it is to bring a mobile phone to market, much less a modern smartphone.

After all, we do know for sure that software engineers, as well as the QA team for Leopard, were reassigned to the iPhone in order to get it out on time. This resulted in Leopard being pushed backwards: Apple delaying Leopard until October.

Now, this second possibility could have resulted in work on the SDK to be re-prioritized and launched at a later date. After all, getting up a SDK is no small feat, considering the documentation and testing involved.

In such a scenario, there might just be a slim chance that an SDK could be released towards the end of the year. Note that this is just purely speculation on my part.

What do you think of this likelihood? Join the discussion.


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