Yes. Believe it or not, there is something that has overshadowed the launch of the iPhone around the world. It is the story of the developer community that has come together around the iPhone to create a whole ecosystem of applications and clandestine methods for loading these applications onto this platform. In a matter of months, loosely organized individuals and companies with names like Nullriver, Conceited software, drudge and “Erica,” have managed to unravel the turtleneck of iPhone security and in the process they have created something entirely new in the industry: a mass-market mobile phone platform that is completely open to the application developer community. They have also created application loading tools for over-the-air installation which have no rival in terms of their sophistication and ease of use. Indeed, there’s no tip-off, except for the author names, that the software you’re using wasn’t developed and pre-installed by Apple – they’re that good.
Along the way, we now have a few new words in our mobile lexicon. Of course, there’s “brick” as a verb, as in “to brick your phone.” Of course, most iPhone users who found their phones bricked after the first software update have since “de-bricked” their phones through various widely available methods. There’s also “jailbreak,” which has come to mean to enable third party software to be loaded onto an otherwise closed platform. A platform so prepared can be called “jailbroken.” The rest of the lexicon is still being worked out. The popular press can’t seem to figure out the difference between SIM-unlocked and “contractless” for example. One can Jailbreak and SIM-unlock their iPhone but still be locked into a 2 year contract.
When the first iPhone “jailbreak” method came out, people were a bit tentative. Surely Apple would “fix” this in a subsequent update. Indeed they did, resulting in the “great bricking.” But when the new firmware was broken as well, the developer community began to smell blood. We’re on our third firmware revision (which has also been broken) and I do not believe at this point that the community can be stopped.
Unfortunately this has all somewhat overshadowed what possibly should have been the biggest story of 2007 – the rise of sophisticated mobile browsers such as Safari for iPhone. I still believe the roll-out of these browsers will have a huge impact in the mobile Web space. But the overall impact on the industry of the iPhone jailbreakers, I believe, will be more important in pushing the industry towards openness, user choice and the wide deployment of connected mobile applications – in a word, Mobile 2.0.
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