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NYT: Final word for now, no third-party apps on the iPhone

Two recent articles in the New York Times would seem to put to rest -- at least for the foreseeable future -- any hopes or speculation that the new iPhone will be allowed (nb: I did not say able) to run third-party OS X applications (previously: 43F Podcast: Snell & Gruber on iPhone applications and Let OS X developers at the iPhone. Please.)

Regrettably, the word on this one comes directly from the Steve's mouth (2007-01-12):

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

The iPhone model, he insisted, would not look like the rest of the wireless industry.

“These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”

David Pogue's seemingly exhaustive iPhone FAQ also underscores what we'd been hearing via these drams of dolor (2007-01-11):

Can it run Mac OS X programs? –No.

Can I add new programs to it? –No. Apple wants to control the look and feel and behavior of every aspect of the phone.

Well, there you go. Apple appears to be on the path to providing its iPhone customers with a pantry full of excruciatingly beautiful crockery and flatware that may never be set down for chow. (But you can bet we'll always know it's there -- even while we're eating takeout with our assigned spoons).

So. Is this developer-free iPhone still something people will run out to buy at even a $500 price-point? You bet your ass it is. Absolutely. Not a question. And kindly record for posterity that I said as much today.

But, in the grand scheme of things, is this "iPod phone" honestly closer to "changing the world" or "sugar water?" It's way too early to tell, and there's no reason to get all histrionic about something that's surely going to evolve very fast.

I guess I just selfishly hope that I can carry this thing around and retain access to the brilliant tools that OS X developers have brought to my Mac.

But slightly more altruistically, I look forward to watching the faces of so many "Mac haters" melt into a smile when they see what they've been missing on the other side of the firewall. It happened with the iPod, it happened with iTunes, and, with the added attraction of top notch OS X apps, there's no question it would happen with the iPhone.

Next trend to watch: insanely great Safari-tuned AJAX apps that turn your iPhone into the ultimate Web 2.0 machine. That is going to be a lot of fun to watch (especially if you can afford Cingular's princely data package pricing).

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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