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Apple faces calls to open iPhone

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Office 2.0 Conference Apple is facing fresh calls to open the iPhone as new evidence emerged of the technical and legal challenges developers face putting their software on the device.

Delegates attending the Office 2.0 Conference have voiced concern over the iPhone's closed architecture, lack of developer tools, and the fact its version of Apple's Safari browser lacks common web plug ins they said needlessly complicate the process of porting software and online services to the device.

And it's not just Web 2.0 start-ups making the noise. SAP, the world's largest supplier of business applications, has pitched in, saying Apple gave the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as the reason it can't install its software on the iPhone.

SAP had hacked its code onto an iPhone as a proof of concept, which is now on hold.

Apple's reality re-defining chief executive Steve Jobs launched the iPhone amid much hype and fan-boy clamor in June. Jobs attempted to offset the obvious drawback of his decision to make the iPhone a closed platform by offering a "sweet work around" in the form of writing applications to the browser in AJAX.

However, SAP's former general manager for emerging solutions Dennis Moore, now CEO for device manufacturer OQO, told the Office 2.0 conference it's not enough to write only to the browser, and serious business and consumer software needs to be able to deploy locally.

"A rich internet experience is important but it's not sufficient to meet people's needs yet. I call on Apple to open up the platform so people can deploy on it," Moore said.

Earlier he'd pointed out the limitations of relying purely on online services, as lack of network availability and bandwidth, and poor replication and back up.

TJ Kang, chief executive of hosted Office suite ThinkFree backed Moore saying he knew hosted providers who'd wasted two man months porting their online spreadsheets to the iPhone, because of deficiencies in Apple's Safari browser.

According to Kang, AJAX struggles, JavaScript crashes and only simple HTML can run properly. The problem is iPhone's Safari doesn't use the same architecture or plug-ins as Safari for the desktop. "Software developers are finding... even though our AJAX based applications run in Safari, we have to make a lot of modifications to make it run well on the iPhone browser," Kang said.

"It's like the early days of Java. Not like write once and run everywhere. It's a lot like write once debug and modify everywhere. It's something we have to live with."

SAP's senior vice president of Imagineering Denis Browne told The Register SAP had followed the lead of community developers in putting its code on the iPhone, but Apple objected. "The community wants this open and available, to put applications in there that are feature rich and business capable," Browne said.

As a first step towards openness, Browne hopes Apple will release an iPhone SDK and improve Safari's support for Flash and Java. Beyond that, Browne said the iPhone must become more like RIM's Blackberry in security and keypad, and support corporate email. Until things change, SAP's iPhone code hacking days seem over.

SAP is interested in putting its applications on the iPhone as part of a strategy in increasing its availability on new platforms for mobile business users.®

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