The iPhone is steadily growing into, and may soon become (if it hasn’t already), the most widely publicized and talked about phone ever released. Apple products are often widely publicized due to the cult following Apple has developed over the years, the iPhone, however, has managed to transcend the boundaries of this avid group of devotees to infiltrate the lives and thoughts of the rest of the world – and rightly so. This minute combination of silicone, metal and plastic has merged the two most popular mobile electronic devices, the iPod and the cell phone, with a host of other widely used applications to produce the ultimate mobile device. However, despite the plethora of monumental advances in mobile technology the iPhone represents, there are many advances that have yet to materialize because of its lack of support for the third party developer community. The iPhone, if opened to third party application developers, would see immeasurable levels of public support and adoption, providing Apple with significantly more revenue possibilities than they would otherwise have with a closed platform.
Apple made it very clear when the iPhone was released that it would not be an open platform. Third party developers were going to have to utilize a different (and much inferior) platform to develop all of their applications – the web. After all, what could possibly require more than a simple web browser interface? The sentiment of the entire developer community is echoed in the famous comedian Dane Cook’s words, “Umm, Helllllo?” However, to present a good argument, one must be fair. Apple did provide some good reasoning behind their anti native development stance. In an article written by John Markoff for the New York Times, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, was quoted saying, “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore.” Mr. Jobs also expressed concern that a rogue application might somehow crash AT&T’s west coast network.
Hackers, however, are not interested in crashing AT&T’s west coast network or shutting down their iPhones. They are simply interested in gaining increased functionality for the many new hardware features of the device. This has been proven at sites like modmyiphone.com and hackint0sh.org where developers have successfully hacked into their iPhones and written native applications to increase the functionality of the device (the image to the right is an example of a custom skin applied to a hacked iPhone). The growing list of unofficial native applications is a testament to the endless expansion possibilities of the iPhone, if only Apple would allow third party development to grow and flourish.
Would opening up the iPhone to third party developers really cater to the publics' wants? The evidence is irrefutable. In just two months, more than 51,000 people have flocked to the two web communities mentioned above –five percent of the total number of people who have purchased the device - and they are all there for one purpose, to hack their iPhones.
It just takes a bit of simple logic to determine why third party developers can significantly boost Apple’s iPhone revenue. More people working on applications for the iPhone equates to a wider variety of available applications. This in turn means that people have a wider variety of options and can accomplish a wider variety of tasks then previously possible with Apple’s limited offerings. All of this means that the iPhone will be a more attractive purchase to more people than it could have ever been under lock down by Apple, thereby affecting their bottom line in a very positive way. The development community has sent a petition letter to Apple requesting not even so much as full support, but only that they do not actively try and shut down the development of native third party applications. Any business or marketing professional worth their salt would not only advise Apple to heed their request, but go a step further and offer them support for their efforts. As of yet, Apple has not responded affirmatively in either direction, it will be interesting to see if they realize and take advantage of the true potential of the native application development community.