Steve Jobs: iPhone Ain’t Opening Up

Jobs didn’t use the word “ain’t”, but in a Newsweek interview with Steven Levy, Jobs put the kibosh on any talk about the iPhone opening up its platform for third party developers.

“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”

Perhaps the most revealing quote is about the issue of mobile walled gardens and how Jobs and Apple first approached Cingular:

“We talked to several of them and educated ourselves,” he says. He finally decided to deal with AT&T’s Cingular network. “[They] were willing to take a really big gamble on us. We decided what the phone is. We
decided what software would be on the phone. And so we could make the product we wanted.
” (emphasis ours)

The bolded bits really sum up Apple’s philosophy. Their products are closed up tight, so that nobody can meddle with them. People weren’t allowed to touch the OS in Macintosh back in ’84 and nowadays they can’t even change the battery in an iPod. The iPhone will be another product that locks out developers and any meddling from users. As Nick Carr put it: “In Jobs’s world, users are users, creators are creators, and never the twain shall meet.”

And really, from a commercial and even artistic sense, Apple’s philosophy is a proven winner. So why change a winning formula? Of course all us web 2.0 zealots will continue to pine for an open platform, because we know that some great innovation would happen over the long run that way. But it ain’t gonna happen.

And actually this is Microsoft’s best opportunity to get ahead in their battle with Apple over digital media – continue to provide the platforms for external developers and content providers that Apple doesn’t, and see what flowers. Michael Gartenberg points out that Cingular already allows this, with Windows Mobile and Palm OS applications on smartphones.

Still, it’s hard to bet against Jobs and the iPhone – it’s just such a great product…