Obvious iPhone SDK Questions

iPod TouchEarlier this month, Steve Jobs announced that an iPhone SDK is on the way. This is great news but, there are some serious questions that need answering. Not least because at the same time, it was announced, albeit in a very low-key way, that the iPhone SDK will work on the iPod Touch.

So what are these questions, and why are these important? Well, lets explore them.

What resources are available?

This is key when it comes to the type of applications that will appear on the iPhone, just what resources will Apple make available to applications using the SDK. For example, will they allow access to the WiFi chipset, allowing developers to create VOIP clients. Something that would surely annoy AT&T and O2 and all the other carriers that have paid a fortune to get exclusive access to sell the hardware bundled with their deals. Another option would be for a developer to use the GSM signals to triangulate the phone’s position, and augment the Google Maps application with this information to provide a crude navigation function.

How will applications be distributed?

It seems as if there is a widely accepted  theory that iPhone and iPod Touch applications will be distributed through iTunes.  This seems sensible and would allow Apple to vet applications.  Or would it? Many of the blogs pushing this theory seem to be suggesting that iTunes is a closed network, a fenced garden if you will, but it’s not.  There is a precedent for small publishers getting their content on iTunes, podcasts.  Anyone can get their pod cast listed on iTunes, and hopefully Apple will take the same approach with Applications.  For me, vetting applications isn’t the way to go, the better way to approach it is to put a robust platform in place. A platform that prevents applications from causing problems in the first place.

For the record, I think the other bloggers are right.  Apple will distribute applications through iTunes and only vetted ones will make it through.  The reason for this is fairly obvious, risk reduction.  The potential damage a rogue app could do on an iPhone is actually quite scary.  Apple has previously talked about the danger of bringing down the cell network, which is possible (no matter how much it sounds like scaremongering).  What’s also possible is an app running up a huge phone bill or a virus spreading itself over wi-fi.  The dangers of a rogue app go far beyond breaking your own system.

One of the dangers of this approach is that Apple may, and no doubt will, vet applications on purpose, not just on quality.  So we’re unlikely to see VOIP any time soon, or a media player that competes with iTunes, or any other apps that may not align with Apple’s strategy for the iPhone.

iPhone Applications on the iPod?

It seems obvious that Apple want to  create this clear seperationof purpose between the iPhone and the iPod Touch.  The clue is in the applications which come with the two devices.  While you get Email and Notes on the iPhone, you don’t on the iPod, and while you do get a calendar, you can’t add or edit events.  So, with the opening up of the device, will Apple also port the email, notes and calendar apps over to it?  Or, will Apple allow competing application creators to develop and release applications on the iPod Touch?  How does  Thunderbird on the iPod Touch sound?

To Charge or not to Charge?

Being an OSX user, I’m used to some fantastic applications I’ve had to pay for.   And I don’t begrudge paying for applications if I use them and the, in fact, I feel good about helping the starving developers put fuel in their Ferraris *cough*.  Fortunately, there re numerous free applications out there, some of which are absolutely fantastic.  The question I’ve got is, will free applications be available if Apple grabs hold of the distribution reigns?

So how have you been taking the iPhone SDK news?  Any really obvious questions I’ve missed on?  For me, the fascinating part is that the SDK will be for both the iPhone and the iPod Touch.  I really thought the iPod Touch would stay locked down for a long, long time.