Apple gives developers some iPhone access

In addition to another preview of OS X 10.5, developers received some welcome news from Apple CEO Steve Jobs Monday—they’ll be able to write applications for the company’s highly anticipated iPhone.

Jobs ended his 90-minute keynote by inviting Scott Forstall, Apple’s vice president of iPhone software, to show what the Apple CEO called an “innovative new way to create apps for iPhone.”

To maintain the security of the iPhone, Apple decided not to let developers write actual applications for the iPhone, but rather create Web 2.0 applications that run within the version of Safari included on the iPhone. Developers will be able to create applications for the iPhone by using programming tools like Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and taking advantage of Safari. A separate, special software developer kit is not needed, Jobs said.

The apps created in this fashion can integrate with the iPhone’s built-in services, giving them access to making a call, sending an e-mail, or looking up location in Google Maps. Since most of the application code runs on a server, Apple said the software is both secure and easy to update.

For his demo, Forstall showed an Apple Directory application the company wrote for the iPhone that taps into an internal LDAP database.

Developers don’t have much time before the phone’s debut to create these applications—the iPhone ships June 29. But Jobs said that developers can begin writing their Web apps now since the mobile device uses the same Safari engine as the version that runs on the Mac.

Ever since the iPhone was previewed at the Macworld Expo in January, developers have clamored for a way to create applications for the device. Apple has resisted, wanting to preserve the iPhone’s security and stability. “The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore,” Jobs told the New York Times in January.

But the company’s position began to soften as the year went on. At the Apple shareholders meeting in May, Jobs said the company was “wrestling” with a way to support third-party development on the iPhone. He told the attendees at last month’s D: All Things Digital conference that the company hope to find a way by year’s end “to let third parties write apps and still preserve security.”

That solution appears to be the Web-based approach outlined by Jobs and Forstall Monday. “We’ve come up with a very sweet solution,” Jobs said.

Robert Mullins of IDG News Service contributed to this report.

This article was updated to include more information on the Web 2.0 programming tools that will be used to create iPhone applications.

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