Apple has alienated many of its customers by strictly limiting the types of third-party software that can run on the iPhone, which includes blocking the use of native applications. But, according to an unconfirmed report, the company may be putting together a system that will allow users to download approved programs to their smartphone.
The site 9 to 5 Mac is reporting that Apple will institute a system already used with other smartphones, most notably the Sidekick line, in which the maker of the device closely controls which third-party applications are available.
Under this system, developers will send their applications to Apple for approval. Only after the programs have been tested to ensure they won't cause problems for the iPhone will they be put up for sale on iTunes.
The same system might be used for the iPod Touch, which runs a virtually identical operating system.
This unconfirmed report does not say when this new software distribution system will be available to developers or iPhone users.
Apple at war with its customers
Apple's insistence that users not install native application on the iPhone has put it into conflict with many iPhone users. Those who aren't satisfied with the limitations have been working hard to find ways to install and run the software they want on this smartphone.
For the first few months the iPhone was on the market there was back-and-forth skirmishing, with groups of developers coming up with ways to install native applications and then Apple releasing a system update that closed the holes the developers were using.
If the earlier struggles between Apple and the iPhone hackers were skirmishes, then the release of iPhone Update 1.1.1 qualifies as a nuclear attack. The changes made set developers hoping to open up the iPhone back to square one, and some of those who had installed software to let their iPhone run on networks other than AT&T had their smartphone "bricked."
Even more significantly, some are starting to lose interest in the whole project as they accept that Apple will always immediately move to undo any progress they make.
Web 2.0 applications vs. native ones
It's possible all this might confuse some people, because Apple already allows iPhone users to run third-party applications on the iPhone. However, these are Web 2.0 apps, that operate through the version of the Safari web browser included on the iPhone.
This type of software is not stored on the smartphone and is only usable when the device has a connection to the Internet.
Native applications, on the other hand, are installed and run entirely on the iPhone, and are typically significantly faster than the other type.