"Open" iPhone, Intel-EU, and Cameras that Peep a Bit Too Much

It's Monday morning, time to get back into the swing of things and catch up on all the weekend's excitement. It's a fairly light day here at LJ News Central, but we have managed to pull up just a few interesting items to enlighten your day.

First up, the big developer news is the release of a beta version of Apple's iPhone SDK, which provides for the eagerly-anticipated development of third party applications for the popular smartphone. It wasn't quite such good news for Open Source developers, however, as the bundle comes with a host of restrictions designed to — well — prevent anything halfway interesting. Among the restrictions: no VOIP via AT&T's network, no sharing information between applications, no programs with plugins — yep, that means Firefox, and the big one, no unapproved applications. Gee, what's left, iPhone tetris?

What there will be, however, is Java for the iPhone, as Sun immediately pledged to develop a Java Virtual Machine for the iPhone, and has plans to premier it sometime in the third quarter. An analyst with Forrester Research lauded the move as removing "Apple's control [of] which applications are 'right' for the iPhone." He seems to have missed the "no unapproved applications" part...

Apple wasn't the only news, however, as several big names were in the news for an amalgam of reasons. Intel is heading into an antitrust hearing with the European Commission next week, set to defend itself against allegations that it's been putting the squeeze to struggling rival AMD. Amazon, meanwhile, is hearing a very Yahosoft-esque line from shareholders of Audible, Inc. — whom the online retailer has offered to buy out at $11.50 per share — calling the offer "unfair." And speaking of Microsoft, Microsoft's Bill Hilf has made quite possibly the most truthful comment ever to come out of Redmond, though we suspect he didn't quite mean it to be so true. Responding to suggestions that Windows be Open-Sourced, Hilf commented that Windows source code is "irrelevant for what people want." Amen, Bill, amen.

Finally, we always like to leave you with a bit of the odd and interesting, and in that trend, we have a couple of government screening tidbits to share. First off is the incredibly unsurprising news that the FBI has been illegally monitoring internet activity, though they claim it was only because the telecoms gave it to them — the same telecoms the President is so desperate to protect. Anybody else think that's awfully similar to "I only stole your car because the valet gave me the keys?" The British, on the other hand, are more interesting in having a look at your knickers, having developed a camera that can "look through clothing" to detect weapons and other hidden items, as well, we suspect, as the Spiderman undies we're so fond of.

And last but not least, the good 'ole Transportation Security Administration — the quasi-police guys who screen airport luggage and hassle travelers over shampoo bottles — is apparently totally out of the loop. An airline traveller — who did, apparently, know the way to San Jose — missed his flight there after security officials were dazed and confused by — of all things — his MacBook Air. Apparently, the uber-guard has been too busy practicing cavity searches to turn on a television, because they were completely bamboozled by the idea of a laptop without a "drive" or "ports." One lone tech-savvy agent was finally able to save the Applophile from an indefinite term at Guantanamo, but not before his flight took off without him. We're moved to ask: "And these are the geniuses who are supposed to be keeping us safe?"

Now, if you'll excuse us, we have a suspicious-looking cellphone to strip-search.

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Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

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RE: "no unapproved applications" part...

Ville M.'s picture

I can only ask.. Where did you get this ? Ok you link to Wired blog article about iPhone but surely you researched a bit further. As I see it.. you're wrong. Just like the Wired article has it wrong. So there is the following section in the SDK agreement:

"You understand that Applications developed using these SDK materials cannot be installed or used on the iPhone or iPod touch. Applications must be approved and signed with an Apple-issued certificate before they can be tested on the iPhone or iPod touch, pursuant to a separate iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Apple reserves the right to approve or withhold approval of any Application at its sole discretion. Apple shall not be responsible for any costs, expenses or other liabilities You may incur as a result of Your Application development or use of this SDK."

What that means to me is that.. 1. This is a preliminary draft and the final version will have something along those lines. 2. Apps are approve via a developer certificate given to you by Apple. Quite like Symbian development. Not by Apple. 3. And yes.. Apple does reserves the right to pull the cert on a software of it's choice.. and you don't have to like it. Is that so surprising ? If they wouldn't there's nothing they could do to applications found to be harmful etc.

re

Justin Ryan's picture

I disagree. You quote this language:

Applications must be approved and signed with an Apple-issued certificate before they can be tested on the iPhone or iPod touch, pursuant to a separate iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Apple reserves the right to approve or withhold approval of any Application at its sole discretion. (Emphasis mine)

That says to me that in order for your program to get anywhere near an iPhone, you have to apply to Apple and be given a certificate. If they turn you down, you're done. So, if "Applications must be approved," then by extension there will be "no unapproved applications," and that's just what my post says.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

re re

vmaatta's picture

First a clarification.. I wrote the comment above. I just wasn't logged in at the time... so the name differs a bit. Anyways..

I think we're disagreeing on semantics here. First of all we can pretty much speculate until June. The iPhone Developer Program License Agreement hasn't been published yet so there's no info on how this is finally gonna turn out.

But as I read it the developer is applying for a license. With that license he's gonna sign the application and any other apps he's gonna develop. So the cert is not per application but per developer. You're not required to send one byte of that application to some Apple rep to be evaluated and/or for approval. What you do is sign it yourself with a certificate that identifies the developer of that particular application. And as I said I do see some similarities here with Symbian development. Quite a lot actually.

But.. all that ranting of mine might still be a moot point :). The iTunes App Store is.. quite a mystery until June at least. In any case it's gonna be a channel of distribution for both commercial and free apps. From some comments it seems it's going to be the channel of distribution. And Apple will be in charge of approving and disapproving apps there. But realistically it would be legal suicide for Apple to disapprove apps that i.e. compete with Apples own apps and that aren't "offensive" etc.

Erm.. In any case if I'd summarize I'd say I would like to see free application delivery allowed come June. As in not just through iTunes. So I want that the certificate signature is enough to allow apps to install on any ones iPhone and Touch. There's nothing wrong about the certificate idea.. it's a good idea. But an iTunes only distribution is just ... well it might even be against EU regulations.

Also.. more than this I'm a bit concerned about other things about the SDK:

  • Such as no background processes allowed. That pretty much screws a lot of potentially useful programs.
  • Then there's "only one application running at one time". When i.e. a call comes in the app has to save it's state and quit. No background processes...
  • And then "application may not use any means bla bla... to execute any additional applications or executable code etc." Sun did say they'll be bringing Java VM to iPhone but one can only ask how are they gonna do that.

PS. What a novel.. sorry about that :).

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke-

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