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Apple Caves: iPhone Software Now Open For Biz

CNBC.com

Steve Jobs has a message for third party software developers who have largely been shut out of the iPhone extravaganza: Call Us Up!

In a sharp reversal to an earlier policy, and in an open letter from Jobs posted on Apple's web site, the company is now inviting software developers to create applications for the iPhone that would live on the iPhone's memory and not on the web. That's a key departure, a cave, for Apple since it did in fact allow programs to be developed for the device, but they'd have to be accessed only by using the iPhone's browser. Soon, that limitation will be eliminated.

"Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have (a Software Developers Kit) in developers' hands in February.

Today's development follows biting criticism all over the web by software developers who complained Apple was being heavy-handed in trying to control the iPhone's evolution. Apple has said it was trying to limit those third party applications because the company was worried the practice would open the iPhone up to malicious software and viruses; something Jobs addressed in his message today:

"Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones--this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target."

Apple has always gone the independent, exclusive route, choosing to keep its iPod and iTunes running as a closed ecosystem, one dependent on the other and closed off to outsiders. Macs historically have not been able to interoperate with Microsoft Windows computers, until recently when Apple switched to microprocessors from Intel .

Now the two can work together if you don't mind unwieldy software bridges that work most of the time, but not all of the time. Apple has always seen a spike in business when new, significant programs come to the Mac world. Adobe ,Microsoft , and so many others have taken advantage of Apple's success, just as Apple has taken advantage of the popularity of other software titles not developed by Apple itself. Look at the popularity of the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, bigger last year than ever before.

Nope. Apple almost had no choice BUT to open iPhone up to outside software developers. It's the right move; at the right time; with the right attention to security. Along the lines of the refund when Apple suddenly lowered the iPhone price as a kind of make-good to its customers, Apple is doing the same kind of about-face with software developers. Good for iPhone; good for developers; good for consumers. And certainly good for investors.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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