Apple's iTunes App Store, the only Apple-approved source for iPhone applications, is getting some competition.
Jay Freeman, the developer behind the Cydia app that allows software not approved by Apple to be installed on the iPhone, has launched the Cydia Store, an unauthorized alternative online market for iPhone applications.
The Wall Street Journal reports that two other developers also are planning online stores to sell iPhone applications that haven't been approved by Apple. One plans a store called Rock Your Phone for iPhone to help make jailbreaking -- the process of installing code that undoes Apple's software lock on the iPhone -- and installing apps not approved by Apple easier. The other plans an online store specializing in adult applications.
Apple maintains tight control over the applications that are available through the iTunes Store for the iPhone. And while many developers accept Apple's oversight and the market has validated it, some chafe at the company's restrictions.
Until a few months ago, iPhone developers couldn't even discuss iPhone coding publicly due to the restrictive nondisclosure agreement they had to accept to use the iPhone software development kit. And developers continue to have applications rejected for things like ridiculing public figures, censorship that wouldn't be tolerated in print or other traditional media.
Freeman insists Cydia isn't about pirating applications. He says it's for applications that Apple would never approve. "The Cydia Store is about providing a simpler billing channel to buy the already commercial applications in Cydia, like Snapture," said Freeman via Twitter.
The kinds of applications Apple is willing to approve for sale in its iTunes Store have been changing, perhaps due to pressure from dissident developers like Freeman. In December, Apple started allowing novelty applications, such as the Pull My Finger flatulence simulator, to be sold. It had previously rejected such apps citing their lack of utility.
Apple hasn't yet responded legally to stop Freeman and the Cydia Store, but in comments filed last year with the U.S. Copyright Office, the company asked the government agency not to grant a copyright law exemption so iPhones can be legally jailbroken. Such an exemption, Apple argues, represents "an attack on Apple's particular business choices with respect to the design of the iPhone mobile computing platform and the strategy for delivering applications software for the iPhone through the iPhone App Store."
As long as there's money to be made in iPhone apps, Apple can expect that attack to continue.
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