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iPhone locked down, Apple confirms

We approve the apps, OK?

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It's a good job Apple's amazing new gadget beats as it sweeps as it cleans - and allows you to leap over tall buildings with one bound. Because it's beginning to look somewhat Dead On Arrival as a competitive smartphone.

As several readers have pointed out, the lack of 3G makes the first iteration a hard sell in Europe and Asia. Particularly in Europe, where without many EDGE networks, it's using 2001 GPRS data.

But a more serious blow to the iPhone as a next generation software platform has emerged. Apple has confirmed it's a closed device, and only Apple will be releasing software for the iPhone.

"There is no opportunity right now for third party development," Apple's Greg Joswiak has told Macworld UK. "Right now the opportunities are limited to the accessory market."

Google and Yahoo! have developed software for the first cut of the iPhone, but the policy crushes hopes of a burgeoning third-party applications market.

One reader wrote to us this week, hoping to see the following:

[This is the] first smartphone to have a large existing ISV ecosystem for general purpose applications (I do not count the Palm as its platform was anything but general purpose). I suspect that all it takes to get an OSX app to get running on this is to recompile it for the right CPU. That is not the case with all the crap mobile OS environments out there.

Alas, it's not going to happen just yet. Distraught developers may console themselves with two thoughts.

Firstly, this is how network operators like it - and it's their network. Secondly, this is what Symbian's founding CEO (1998-2002) Colly Myers told us a couple of years ago. Symbian was founded as the phone industry's answer to Microsoft, and one of the goals was to create a market for third party applications -

... there is not a mass consumer market for C++ applications, with the emphasis on consumer and C++. My theory is that any really successful C++ application will become a signature application and will end up being built into the phone. Opera is a perfect example. So there will be a large market for C++ applications but the market will be to ODMs [Original Device Manufacturers] and handset manufacturers, and possibly, in time, network operators.

Time has proved this prediction correct. The S60 platform accounts for vast majority of the 100m or so Symbian smartphones sold so far - and that market doesn't exactly look vibrant these days. ®

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