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Give Me an SDK or Give Your Product Death

Yeah, I know it’s not nearly as catchy as the Patrick Henry original, but then what is? That Patty knew how to turn a phrase.

But what I’m referring to is the Apple iPhone, announced this week at MacWorld in San Francisco. Does it look cool? Absolutely. Will I buy one? Hell no. At least not right now.

See, I love me some red-hot tech gadgetry. I am more than willing to plunk down US$600 for a sweet gadget. But lately my phone purchases have hinged on one thing: what can I write for it? My Nokia 6620 was purchased because I could run Python on it. My Blackberry 8700 because I had been doing some [STRIKEOUT:J2ME] phoneME work and really liked their developer tool set. And that’s my biggest beef with the iPhone: no third part apps that aren’t cleared by Apple1_. OK, it’s really my second biggest beef — no user replaceable battery? Morons.

But I think that the lack of openness will be a huge blow to iPhone sales. Now, perhaps they’ll still be huge, and maybe huge is enough. But if the phone runs OS X2_ and you give developers an SDK, you suddenly make the device that much more valuable. Sort of a software-platform-network effect . And that could make your sales gi-normous.

My favorite bit of FUD regarding this decision? Pope Steve’s comment to MSNBC :

“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.” So first, if Cingular’s network can be brought down by an application on a single handset (or even a few hundred or a few thousand handsets), they have bigger problems. They are, as they say in the biz, fucked. Second, if it could be brought down, why hasn’t it been, given that many mid to high end handsets have support for loading 3rd party applications?

And finally, yes, I do want an open platform. And I don’t intend to purchase a handset that can’t deliver that. And a replaceable battery.