iPhone Third-Party Application Support
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Of course, technology users want to use every device to its full potential. But on the rare occasion that a special product such as the iPhone comes along, it is especially painful to see a large part of its immense potential go unfulfilled. In this case, when we heard that Apple intends to make the iPhone a closed system with no user-installable applications or 3rd-party development opportunities, we were surprised and disheartened. For some of us, it may even dissuade us from even purchasing this otherwise amazing product.
Apple's major competitors in this space (Palm, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile) were given a thorough drubbing by Steve Jobs during his latest MacWorld keynote. But all of these platforms allow easy, open 3rd-party development by developers large and small. Even the vast majority of non-"smart" mobile phones allow the installation of mobile Java applications, including complex games. In the case of Palm, it is possible to develop and distribute applications with no licensing fees and no software investment. As a result, the thousands of free and shareware applications developed by the community are largely considered the platform's biggest asset.
The software included with the iPhone is incredible, with functionality and user interfaces far superior to the standard software included with any other handheld. But as amazing as it is, it's just not enough. With a tiny investment, any smartphone can be enabled to edit Office documents, connect to chat networks, read electronic books, manage a diet, and play games. All of these activities would be better, easier, faster and more enjoyable on the iPhone, so it breaks our heart to know that, if Apple maintains its closed stance, none of this potential will be realized.
Our argument is that a large portion of the potential market for the iPhone consists of power users who will be disappointed if they are limited to the device's built-in applications. The price point is likely a hard sell to many casual users, and those simply looking for a vastly improved iPod may be put off by the limited storage space for movies and music. This leaves technically inclined users -- those of us who already own a smartphone but are dissatisfied with its "last century" interface -- and many of us will be disappointed by having to give up the 3rd-party applications we have relied on for their needs.
Please, Apple, follow the excellent model you have created for Mac OS X and allow 3rd party developers (from individuals to large companies) to create and distribute applications for the iPhone. This small investment from you would allow eager developers to add enormous value to your product, ultimately driving sales and increasing customer satisfaction. And besides, it's the Apple thing to do!