An Open Letter to Steve about the iPhone SDK


Dear Steve,

Your recent announcement of an upcoming iPhone SDK, made under the radar via your Hot News page, was very welcomed by most iPhone users. We can’t wait to have native version of Skype and Instant Messaging clients on our phone, and not put there via Jailbreaking. This really should have been in software developers hands a year ago, but we’ll take it anyway, if a bit late.

But that’s not what I’m writing to you about today. I’m writing to complain that the most obvious omission in iPhone apps is the fact that we can’t put 3rd widgets on our iPhones. It’s obvious to the most causal user that you already have them running. You can’t tell me the weather “app”, the stock “app”, and probably others aren’t widgets, the same as in the Dashboard, running on the iPhone. When you announced the iPhone, you told us “you won’t need an SDK”. 37Signals proclaimed validation for their ethos, that web apps and AJAX’d apps were the future. And there’s obviously an audience out there for these things (see the Digg and Facebook iPhone versions). But what I imagined was alot closer to a Dashboard widget than a web page running in Safari.

In fact, there was never a question in my mind that we’d be able to develop iPhone “apps” that would run native, with a cool little icon on the home screen, in HTML and CSS and Javascript. I assumed there’s be special hooks we could put in the html that would activate special iPhone features, and there are (text fields called “phone” or “zip” bring up numeric entry screens), but those seemed half baked also. Why doesn’t a “file” field called “photos” allow us to choose photos stored on the iPhone for uploading (to say, flickr)? And why can’t we explicitly tell a text field to bring up the url, phone/number, or qwerty keyboards?

So, I beg of you Steve, make this happen. Let us put widgets on our iPhones. Let us have more control over what our html can do. Let us do what we all thought was going to be possible. You already have all of this functionality there, I’m not asking for anything new here, just flip the switch and make it happen.


BJ Clark
iPhone Addict and Web Developer



Sorry if I’m an idiot, but I am having a really hard time understanding exactly what you are upset about. It seems you are aware of the upcoming SDK from apple, so you aren’t complaining about the lack of native apps (or are you?). Are you making a distinction between “native apps” and “widgets” (if so, please explain to me how these would be different beasts on the iphone)? Are you upset because there are reports that the SDK will limit apps’ access to certain features of the phone? I’m trying to fully understand what you are saying, I read your letter twice start to finish, am I missing something?


I agree, the open letters are getting a bit too much.

And if you really want Steves secretary to read this (he wont read it himself until it has been deemed interesting) then you should cut down on the “lets write words just because we know them”, put some structure into the text and make your point simple and clear.

But preferably not before the SDK has been released.


Am I to understand that you are complaining about the lack of an SDK features, the ability to “put 3rd widgets on our iPhones”, prior to the SDK even being released?

Either wait until the SDK is released, so that you can talk facts, or write about the features you hope will be in the SDK.


As a fellow web developer, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

That being said, I think the simple truth of the matter is that the SDK (either in the form of Mobile Safari-specific HTML and CSS or a native Obj-C SDK) – like the iPhone – simply isn’t done.

Apple pulled peopled off the Leopard project to get the iPhone out in time, and given the obvious features that were left out (MMS, Video, true Exchange support to name a few), it seems painfully clear to me that these apps simply weren’t done. Steve has stated candidly that each of the areas I’ve just named are being worked on, so it’s a waiting game more than anything else.

In short, we’ll have our day. I think 2008 – not 2007 – will be the year of the iPhone, and it’ll be because of developers writing both XHTML+CSS and Obj-C.


I bet all this will happen. I would put a dollar on a new multi touch tablet to coincide with the Iphone / multi touch cocoa sdk……probably a stripped down version of OS X (like apple TV). I bet much of the delay in Iphone apps has to do with the coming tablet and getting things ready for developers to create powerful multi-touch applications….just my guess. just wait….it will come…


I’d recommend proofreading the letter for typos too if you decide to send it. (“very welcomed”, “causal user”, “there’s be”)


Eric Crist

Just my two cents, but I’m really, really, really sick of all the ‘open letters’ bloggers are writing. It’s old. How about you write them a letter and send it off?

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