Last week Apple announced its software development kit for the iPhone. The demo and announcement was generally met with enthusiasm, especially with demos of Super Monkey Ball being shown off, interoperability with Microsoft Exchange, and many other examples being shown alongside it to help underline the potential of the platform.
However, with a little hindsight some people are now seeing flaws with the agreements required for the SDK, and the cut that Apple will get from sales. Alexander Wolfe at informationweek.com outlines some of the anger at Apple’s tight control over the SDK. It was expected already that apps would only be available through iTunes. However Apple are also charging $99 for the full documentation for the SDK (a more rudimentary version is available for free), and then 30% of any revenue on applications sold through the iTunes store (however apps can be distributed through it for free if they themselves are free).
This contrasts sharply with the attitude of other mobile platforms. Symbian and Google Android have no such restrictions, and there certainly is no restricted marketplace for Windows Mobile apps. Apple are very much in contrast to the rest of the market on this. There certainly is a lively developer community for Symbian and Windows Mobile, and Android is starting off well. I don’t think it will be a barrier to entry for the bigger developers, but I think it could affect the smaller dev companies or individuals. I’ve seen some fantastic apps on Symbian that might not have existed if the student developer was being charged for the means of getting full access to the OS.
The iPhone as a platform is clearly very well designed with a lot of potential for both creativity and making hard cash, but I do wonder if shunning the true open source software approach may damage its potential for some real cutting edge development.