Steve Jobs Was Originally Dead Set Against Third-Party Apps for the iPhone

Steve Jobs Was Originally Dead Set Against Third-Party Apps for the iPhone

We’re all looking forward to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, which will be released on Monday, October 24. But if you’ve been keeping an eye on the news over the past couple days, you’d have already seen some interesting stories from the book.

One of those details Steve’s initial opinion on third-party apps for the iPhone. In the beginning, Steve was opposed to third-party apps, and wanted developers to create web apps that could be used through the device’s mobile Safari web browser. According to Apple board member, Art Levinson, “Jobs at first quashed the discussion” of allowing apps on the company’s debut smartphone.

Art called Steve “half a dozen times to lobby for the potential of the apps,” according to the book, but Steve was against them — “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.”

As the video above from PC World shows, when the iPhone was first introduced at Macworld 2007, Steve gave developers the opportunity to develop web apps for the device, but native apps weren’t an option at that point. Steve 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.

However, web apps never really took off, and Steve changed his mind — announcing in October, 2007, that a software development kit for the iPhone would be available the following year. In July, 2008, the App Store was born.

It is now one of the iPhone’s biggest selling points, with a recent advertising campaign that was based on the tagline, “There’s an app for that.” The App Store is now home to over 500,000 apps, and is the largest and most successful mobile application store available, with over 18 billion downloads since it opened its doors.

Do you think the iPhone would be as successful as it is today without the birth of the App Store?

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  • Rose

    No way!  The App Store is one of the main selling features of the iPhone!  I can’t imagine having had enjoyed the first iPhone as much without the App Store!

  • ray

    Apps existed for quite awhile before the iPhone existed.  However they were rather poor quality and never took off due to lack of organization.  Apple changed things (as always) and it’s hard to imagine any smartphone platform without apps.

  • Porn Blogger

    Stop spoiling the book!!

  • Graham Cottingham

    The app store is fantastic, however there are a few things that are interesting with this:

    • Web based apps wouldnt use up HD space so more room for music. They can also integrate with the phone so potentially can do everything that the native apps could do.

    • The app store is a dictatorship that only allows apps that are approved by apple onto their device. However with web apps anybody could create an app allowing a lot more flexibility and potential.

    • Developers can still charge for access to their web based service and wouldnt have to pay Apple a penny, more money for their hard work.

    I find it odd that it web based apps didnt catch on.

  • MacHead

    Jailbreaking is to be thanked for the App Store. 

  • MacHead

    How do you access a web based app on your iPod Touch when you arent on wifi? Games and Navigation and Music and countless other apps would require internet connection, which would require more data usage. Local apps are obviously better

  • dougitdesign

    Old news.

  • Mike Jones

    The most interesting takeaway in this story is that Apple can change their minds 180 degrees and execute on a decision in a matter of months.  That’s the takeaway for me and any business owner (small or large).

  • Frank Lowney

    Ironically, web apps have become a refuge for those developers who can’t or won’t abide by some of the App Store rules such as In-app Purchasing and Subscriptions.

  • dale2000

    Many web based apps stay on local storage, which, yes, defeats the original poster’s point.

  • dale2000

    Like all markets that Apple enters… yes, alternatives pre-existed Apple’s products, but Apple just had a knack for waiting for the technology to mature to the point where it was appropriate for the masses (and marketing the hell out of it).

    iPod, iPhone, Apps, iPad… it’s all the same.  None of those are original in their field, they just happen to be so good that people have forgotten the rest. *

    * This applies to the “new” Apple, obviously, as Macs still only occupy 15% or so of the “PC” market.

  • Graham Cottingham

    Valid point on storage, but the other to points are valid and I think its a bit of a shame they havnt been explored.

    @cdebc1c6565658d7058ff8b4b2889ccd:disqus  Id rather get something on just my iphone than not get it at all.

  • dale2000

    I definitely agree with you.  I think the main reasons web apps never really took off are two:

    - Web apps don’t instill a sense of reliability.  They are (at least perceived to) rely on a data connection/plan.

    - Apps purchased on the store come with a form of “ownership,” which provides users with a more official feeling of support.  Again, a reliability issue, whether perceived or otherwise.

  • twitter-28439603

    This was pretty obvious, from the original introduction.  Yes, I know this article mentions the introduction.. so basically, this article is pointless, since it’s obvious/already known.

  • Bonzo

    Go away troll

  • fortninety

    I love how pissed some of you are someone/something pointing out that Steve Jobs was not correct 100% of the time. l. o. l.

  • Mart

    Agreed, when the app store was release it was almost an exact copy of what installer app(think that’s what it was called) many people had been enjoying on their jailbroken phone for ages.  

  • SocialExpert

    Too bad he is a good guy RIP steve! we will missing u!buy facebook fans now at http://buyfcbkfans.com

  • Dave_m

    After having Yahoo Japan’s transit app crash constantly I decided to just to make an icon to their mobile site.  Perhaps the app store should reject apps that require connectivity to work, thus making an individual app unnecessary.  I’m looking at you too M-W dictionary…

  • Phil

    are your seriously fucking spamming this article man?

  • Phil

    Yeah seriously, Steve made mistakes. If you know your history there are quite a few of them but when he made good decisions THEY WERE GOOD. DAMN GOOD.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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