Wednesday, March 19

Updated: OK, no flaws in Apple's iPhone SDK after all!

Update: I stand corrected, and so should Pete Yandell, my original source for this story. Thanks to the diligence of readers like you, I've now learned everything I missed while I ducked out to put the kettle on while the iPhone SDK videoconference was playing: there absolutely is a way for a small business to test an iPhone app without offering it over iTunes Store, and developers who only want to release products to their own staff are able to pay a little more for the ability to do that privately via iTunes Store.

However, it still seems a strategic mistake to open the SDK to US developers only initially. Software development quality does not respect geographical boundaries, and the largest and most experienced mobile software development communities are all outside the US.

Anyway, read on, see where I was wrong, and please join in the very healthy discussion in the comments for this post!

It's been a couple of weeks since the launch of Apple's iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and it's taken me that long to find a serious flaw worth noting in what has been an otherwise enthusiastically-received program.

But while considering Rails Camp 08 I found a stunning flaw unearthed by developer Pete Yandell - he says the iPhone SDK program is only available to US-resident developers.

Until now my only concern was that third-party iPhone apps could only be sold on iTunes Store, which seemed a needless constraint for Apple. I think consumers and carriers could understand the risk in downloading iPhone apps from other sources, all it needs is a disclaimer pop-up from Apple before you wander out of the walled garden, not a blanket ban.

But limiting iPhone developers to US residents is seriously nuts, since almost without exception, the best mobile developers, designers, usability and product management people are outside the US. 

In terms of strategic mistakes, it's akin to launching a program to promote, say, professional surfing and then requiring all competitors to be residents of Tajikistan (Tajiki don't surf!)

It's most likely a measure designed to put some limits to the growth of the SDK program - Apple reports they received a bazillion SDK applications in the first nanoseconds following the launch and it has been reported that there's already a waitlist to have SDK paperwork considered.

If there's already a waitlist, it's safe to assume someone at Apple is manually reviewing every SDK application submitted. So why not bust open the US-only restriction and allow that reviewer to consider any new developer - from any country - solely on the basis of the quality of their proposal and track record in mobile development?

Apple wants the best possible iPhone apps, right? It has to cast the net further than the mobile equivalent of Tajikistan...

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