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Apple opens up iPhone to app developers

'Unneccessary' SDK to ship February, says Stevie

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The iPhone and iTouch are to get a Software Developers Kit in February next year, allowing developers to create proper native applications for the platform and allowing it to properly compete with other smart phones, Steve Jobs announced on the company's website today.

Just four months after declaring that "...no software developer kit is required for the iPhone" at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the Apple CEO said such an SDK will be available, and was always planned once the wrinkles had been ironed out.

But in announcing the glad tidings he noted that Nokia will only allow apps to be loaded onto its newer phones if they have a digital signature that can be traced to a known developer. This, says Steve, makes Nokia's devices "less than totally open". But "we believe [this] is a step in the right direction."

Quite how Apple intends to secure its devices without resorting to a similar signing scheme we don't know, though talk of "an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone's amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs" would seem to indicate a layered security protocol, with some form of sandboxing, and Apple oversight on deployed applications.

Companies close to Apple are already working on applications to be distributed through iTunes, and must also have access to some form of SDK. So the main questions have been how widely this SDK is to be made available, and whether Apple will let other companies sell content for its babies.

Steve's letter seems to answer the first question: the SDK is going to be widely available, the security and distribution mechanisms that Apple intends to endorse remain open to debate. ®

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