Here is another great example of a company trying to walk the fine line between an open and a closed value chain ecosystem. From a Steve Jobs letter:
Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users.
This is obviously good news for consumers who’ll get more choice and more innovation. It is also good news for the mobile industry which needs more examples of (hopefully lightly) managed ecosystems that tap into the Internet innovation/experimentation vein. I do hope what Apple has in mind passes my ecosystem test. The company does have a chance to be a leader in enabling great mobile user experiences and their initial approach to openness was well-aligned with what makes sense in the mobile software space.
According the the letter, security is the big reason for the delay.
It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.
I hope security does not become the excuse for putting a number of artificial controls in the ecosystem. As hackers have already shown, one hardly needs a malicious third party app that a user downloads to break into an iPhone.