iPhone SDK worth the wait

With less than three days left in February, there is still no sign of Apple’s software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone, promised to us by CEO Steve Jobs himself back in October of last year. The rumor reported in Business Week was that it will be delayed by one to three weeks, although Apple has yet to confirm a new launch date or offer an explanation for the holdup. Knowing Apple and its penchant for doing the unexpected (read: anything it wants), it’s probably in no hurry and is banking on its customers agreeing the iPhone SDK will be worth the wait.

Jobs said, in an open letter, that it would take until February to release an SDK because Apple was “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, privacy attacks, etc.”

Apple is most likely still working out the kinks in how to strike this balance, as well as determining how it can get its cut of the profits in return for relinquishing some of the control. To provide a one-stop shop for application downloads (read: make more money), a distribution model utilizing iTunes is most likely the route Apple will go to make the SDK available. It has worked well thus far for its iTunes, movies and gaming platforms for both the iPod and iPhone. For security reasons, it is doubtful Apple will opt to let third parties go directly to the handset.

As a concession to customers and third-party developers alike, Jobs announced at MacWorld in January that the iPhone home screen was now able to be rearranged, letting consumers choose what apps have real estate on their home page and which get bumped to a second or third (or up to ninth) screen. Without the SDK, this feature has been a nice option, but nothing earth shattering. Its real potential lies in making the phone more consumer and third-party friendly by allowing iPhone owners to choose which apps get precedence – even if a native-Apple app is not the first choice.

I, for one, am willing to wait on Apple (as if I had a choice). Apple seems genuine in promoting choice and allowing third parties to feature their content front and center. Besides that, I have enough problems with my iPhone freezing or randomly turning off that I think it’s best for Apple to work out the kinks of its SDK rather than risk sabotaging a lot of promise. If we have to wait a few more weeks to use Map Quest over Google Maps or Instant Message instead of text, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in exchange for a device that is more functional, versatile and entertaining, not to mention still better looking than most.

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