Straight from the horse's mouth on Apple.com today: "Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers? hands in February." The horse, of course, would be Steve Jobs - Apple CEO and he of the "iPhone runs apps - Web 2.0 apps!" party line up until now.
This great news if you own or are interested in the iPhone, even if we have to wait almost six months for Apple-supported application development to begin in earnest. Until now, third-party apps on iPhone have been nothing short of a giant game of hack and be hacked, with developers getting into the handset's innards only to then have Apple nudge them back out again via a firmware update.
It's hard to say what the reasons behind Apple's reticence to open the iPhone up to developers has been, except to say that they've made a phenomenal business out of controlling every aspect of the user experience related to their products - from packaging to software to the hardware it runs on - so it makes sense that they'd want to retain control over that. Still, the grassroots developer community that's gathered at iPhone's feet has been pretty amazing without Jobs' support, so it's really exciting to see Steve & Co. get behind them at last.
Will we have to pay to download authorized third party iPhone apps via iTunes? Will deserving developers get shut out of Apple's dev program? Will Nokia respond to Steve's slight jab at the Finnish company's recent claims of making "totally open" phones themselves? Only time will tell.
Read: Third Party Applications on the iPhone - Apple