Apple gets the last word on iPhone apps


Apple is expected to formally announce its much-anticipated iPhone software development kit on March 6...and the advance word is grim. Citing multiple sources familiar with Apple's SDK plans, iLounge says the computing giant will implement a series of application development and publishing restrictions, most egregious among them maintaining complete control over which applications are formally approved or denied. Apple and Apple alone will determine which iPhone applications pass muster, publishing and distributing greenlighted apps exclusively via the iTunes Store. It's a policy that clearly favors larger, established developers, whose applications will no doubt enjoy priority status once the inevitable submission deluge begins. Still no word on whether Apple will retain control over subsequent improvements and fixes, which would slow the overall process even more. iLounge adds that Apple will also block developers from interfacing directly with iPhone Dock Connector-based accessories, a move promising to limit the scope of new apps even further.

So why is Apple looking to seize almost total control over third-party iPhone development? Maybe it's greed--assuming the same rules that dictate iTunes music and video sales are installed for iPhone apps, Apple will likely demand a significant cut of all premium downloads. Perhaps it's about control: The only way to guarantee the iPhone does not open to software and services outside of the Apple corporate sphere is to keep the device under lockdown. It could even be about maintaining the purity of the iPhone user experience, guaranteeing that complex and unruly apps don't disturb the digital feng shui so critical to the Apple mystique.

Keep in mind Apple has neither confirmed nor denied it will impose such severe limitations on iPhone application development--come Thursday's formal presentation, the company could surprise us. But assuming the worst does indeed come to pass, consider this: The iPhone, the device that rewrote the rules governing how the mobile business operates, would become a symbol of the same walled-garden paranoia that defines the industry's past, not its future. Talk about irony…or, in this case, iRony.

Be sure to check out the FierceDeveloper website Thursday for exclusive online coverage of the iPhone SDK announcement. See you then. -Jason