While Apple’s closed iPhone operating system draws wrath from application-starved users, competitors such as Nokia, Microsoft, and Research In Motion are promoting their phones’ open development platforms. Nokia in particular just launched a new website, NSeries.com, that advertises the application-readiness of the NSeries phones. “We believe the best devices have no limits. That’s why we’ve left the Nokia NSeries open. Open to applications. Open to Widgets. Open to anything. So go ahead and load it up. What it does is up to you.” states the site’s “Open” page.
Microsoft also has gone with an open development platform with the Windows Mobile device family. According to a figure in a recent PC World article, Microsoft states that over 18,000 applications have been developed for Windows Mobile. In recent years, Research In Motion has begun taking steps to enable application development for its BlackBerry (affectionately known as “CrackBerry”) phones.
Apple’s decision to create a closed platform doesn’t appear to be hindering iPhone sales — in fact more than a million phones have reportedly been sold — but it makes me wonder if Apple will ever open the platform. Certainly the PC wouldn’t be as popular without the myriad programs and applets that do everything from organizing photos to editing videos to creating Web pages to renaming files in bulk. One company didn’t write all of those applications; they were developed by countless people over a period of decades. Apple can’t expect to write all the iPhone apps its users would find useful. And developing within the Safari browser leaves limited capabilities, and questionable access when away from a Wi-Fi hotspot. When will they realize that open development (and open carrier usage) would benefit their users?