Apple determined to keep control over iPhone software

Steve Jobs is determined that Apple will retain tight control over the software that can be loaded on an iPhone and has no plans to open the handset to third-party developers.

The Apple chief executive told the New York Times that he does not want users to be able to load software from all and sundry only for the phone to cease to function.

"We define everything that is on the phone," he said. "You don't want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn't work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers."

That is not to say that there will not be additional software, but that it will come from Apple, even though third-parties may be involved in its development.

"It doesn't mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment," he said.

He reiterated his position in an interview with Newsweek, saying that Apple decided which software will go on the phone so that it could make the product exactly as it wanted.

"You don't want your phone to be an open platform," he said. "You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn't want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up."

Jobs intimated that iChat, Apple's AIM-compatible instant messaging software, is one application that may be seen on iPhones.

"There's no reason we couldn't have iChat on here," he said.

The SMS text interface that he demonstrated during the phone's unveiling on Tuesday has an iChat-style interface, where messages are displayed consecutively, but as they are texts each individual message will have to be paid for. The cost of IM, on the other hand, would be dependent on how the iPhone is connected to the internet; on a home Wi-Fi connection it would be free.

Other possibilities that Jobs raised in the interview included the ability to take a song from iTunes and set it as a ringtone.

"Wouldn't that be cool," he said, before suggesting that it might add to the cost of the phone, since the record companies would be certain to demand a royalty.

Despite any supposed shortcomings in the phone's features - such as the ability to take notes, open Office files and PDFs or play games - Jobs insists that iPhone is still five years ahead of the competition.

"If we didn't do one more thing, we'd be set for five years," he said.

But in all likelihood Apple will do one more thing and more, with five months to go before the phone goes on sale in the US there is plenty of time for refining and expanding the software offering.