Freelance consultant for digital heritage

Apple’s iPhone will be a closed platform?

I’ve been a Mac user for over 3 years now, and like most Mac users, I was excited when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone at Macworld San Francisco on Tuesday. Apart from the device looking utterly amazing in every way, it was revealed that it actually runs a version of OSX. Wow. Or so I thought.

I’m sure I’m not alone in first thinking “Wow! A pocket Mac!”. David Pogue’s blog reveals further disappointments. It won’t run iChat, it doesn’t have GPS (despite having a Google Maps app), and the web browser doesn’t run Flash. I thought it was meant to be an “internet communicator”, Mr Jobs!

As reported by Macrumors, the iPhone will not be an open platform. Apple want to control everything that runs on the phone. An article in the New York Times, where Steve Jobs is interviewed about the iPhone, states him as saying:

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “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. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

I disagree. I used to have a Nokia 6600, which ran the Symbian OS, on which I ran lots of 3rd party applications and none of them ever prevented me from making a call. Ever. Is the ‘OSX Lite’ that runs on the iPhone really that flaky?

Or, more likely, maybe it’s because of Apple’s obligations to Cingular. Because of the iPhone’s built-in WiFi, 3rd party applications could be developed to use the device for VoIP, which could damage Cingular’s revenue from voice and data calls. Who knows.

Still, it’s easy to be cynical before the device is released, and there’s still 6 months to go. Maybe once it’s on general release, people will find a way around things, or Apple will add some more features. I’m sure that it will do what it does very well indeed, just without the flexibility to do things your way…