How much does Apple care that "iPhone 2.0" has been hacked already?

Columns & Opinion, iPhone

Just a week after Apple launched the iPhone SDK, it’s been hacked.

Pretty fast going, but unsurprising.

Let’s not think that Apple didn’t see this coming a mile off.

Given the speed with which the original iPhone firmware was hacked to allow third-party applications, and to release it from the exclusive mobile network carriers, Apple knew that exactly the same thing would happen when the SDK launched.

Apple continually says all the right things to appease the networks it has exclusive contracts with, but the company has always known that keeping tight controls on the iPhone would encourage underground software development.

Now that the official SDK has been unveiled, Apple knows that the hackers who have put firmware version 2.0 on the iPhone will likely develop at a much faster rate than “official” developers.

The likes of Electronic Arts, AOL, Sega, Namco, PopCap, Six Apart, and other big name developers — plus a host of smaller independent ones — will develop applications, have them approved by Apple, and sell them through iTunes. They get exposure to a mass of “ordinary” iPhone users, and Apple gets 30% of any revenue generated.

“Underground” developers will create a host of apps not sanctioned by Apple, and distribute them via the same channels they already do.

There’s room for both, and Apple knows that.

It’s true that a huge number of iPhones sold have not been activated — which means they’re being used in unsupported countries and networks — but let’s not forget that the majority of iPhone users are “well-behaved” customers who do everything the way that Apple originally intended. They use the exclusive carrier in their country (AT&T, O2, T-Mobile, Orange), and upgrade their iPhone’s software via iTunes. They use the built-in and Safari-based applications, and are generally quite happy.

Many don’t know or care that their phone can be jailbroken — not everyone wants to get involved with hacking their iPhone and many just don’t care how “open” or “closed” it is. Hackers’ and everyday consumers’ core needs are poles apart.

Hacked iPhones may lose Apple ongoing revenue, but the hype and free marketing machines continue to motor along with no cost to the company.

Does Apple care that the latest hacks may unlock a batch of iPhones, possibly irretrievably? I don’t think so. There’s enough room for everyone to play the iPhone just the way they want to.

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Andy Merrett
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