Jobs’ original vision for the iPhone: No third-party native apps

Remember back in 2007 when Apple first told developers that to develop for the iPhone, they’d need to build WebApps for Safari? Well, that really was the plan. At the time, Jobs said:

The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone. And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, they can send an email, they can look up a location on Google Maps.

And guess what? There’s no SDK that you need! You’ve got everything you need if you know how to write apps using the most modern web standards to write amazing apps for the iPhone today. So developers, we think we’ve got a very sweet story for you. You can begin building your iPhone apps today.

The App Store came later and apparently as a reaction to jailbreakers and developer backlash.

The App Store nowadays is arguably the most vital app community on any platform, but Steve Jobs initially resisted the idea of users customizing their iPhones with third-party programs, later to become known as apps. The revelation is another of the many interesting nuggets to leak from the upcoming Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, which goes on sale Monday. According to the Huffington Post which obtained an early copy of the book:

Apple board member Art Levinson told Isaacson that he phoned Jobs “half a dozen times to lobby for the potential of the apps,” but, according to Isaacson, “Jobs at first quashed the discussion, partly because he felt his team did not have the bandwidth to figure out all the complexities that would be involved in policing third-party app developers.”

Some other tidbits: Jobs informed Cook on a flight to Japan that “I’ve decided to make you COO”. Also, the initial lukewarm reception to iPad “annoyed and depressed” Jobs.

As for Apple’s seemingly unstoppable mobile application bazaar, Jobs – of course – would later embrace the App Store fully as it had become the central theme around Apple’s famous iPhone commercials featuring the “There’s an app for that” tagline. Upon releasing, the original iPhone immediately captured attention of the hacking community which had begun tinkering with the product. Soon thereafter, popular tweaks ensued which added more functionality to the device despite the lack of the official software development kit.

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Apple at the 2007 WWDC announced the iPhone would run web apps. The news fell on def ears with programmers, prompting Steve Jobs to announce in an open letter on October 17, 2007 that the iPhone software development kit for third-parties would be released on March 6, 2008. The App Store went live alongside the iPhone 2.0 software update on July 11, 2008. Apple CEO Tim Cook shared the latest App Store numbers in Tuesday’s conference call with analysts. The App Store, he said, now has more than 500,000 apps for iOS devices, 140,000 of which have been written specifically for iPad. Users have downloaded third-party programs more than 18 billion times since the App Store’s inception, he said, while noting the App Store expanded to 33 new countries during the September quarter.

The Huffington Post article also mentions how Jobs took it upon himself to wage a “thermonuclear war” against Android, threatening to “destroy” it because he thought Google was stealing Apple’s ideas. A change in heart was most evident in the following highly publicized interview with Jobs…

Reflecting on the App Store in his chat with Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal columnist, at the 2010 D8: AllThingsDigital conference, Jobs enthused how there was nothing like the App Store before the iPhone came along. After Mossberg objected that pre-iPhone devices were able to run third-party apps, Jobs responded by saying that the carriers controlled everything, including the design of cell phones, noting there was no easy way for a guy in his bedroom to create programs for cell phones and distribute them with ease. “It’s huge now,” he quipped. Here’s that quote:

Well it wasn’t like this. Now it’s huge. And also, when you bought a phone the carrier dictated what you had on the phone. iPhone was the first phone where we said you worry about the network, we’ll worry about the phone.

The book goes on sale on Monday and can be picked up from Amazon here.

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  1. Vladimir Cicmanec - 9 years ago

    “iPhone was the first phone where we said you worry about the network, we’ll worry about the phone” what the actual fuck, windows mobile was like this YEARS before Jobs even dreamt of iPhone. I guess the reality distortion field includes history