Tim Cook says Apple will open iOS up more for third party developers

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Earlier this year, well known iOS developer and hacker pod2g made some comments on Twitter regarding the ‘openness’ of iOS. He argued that there are no technical obstacles barring Apple from offering iOS devs more freedom, so it should consider opening it up.

And a lot of folks agreed with him. Not only did the hashtag ‘WeWantAnOpeniOS’ hit trending status on Twitter, but more than 11,000 people signed the corresponding petition. Well it appears that someone at Apple was listening, because Tim Cook says that’s the plan…

During a wide-ranging interview at the D11 conference earlier this evening, Cook told interviewers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher that Apple plans to open up iOS more for developers. It won’t do anything that risks the user experience, but it will make it more open.

Here’s a rough transcript of the exchange (via The Verge):

Walt: Let’s talk about control. There’s a lot of talk about open versus closed. Facebook did Facebook Home, which hasn’t done very well. Eric Schmidt said it’s great, it’s fine. I understand that they came and talked to you about it, and Apple wouldn’t let anyone take over the lock screen. Your keyboard and your recognition, predictive typing and all that stuff, hasn’t kept pace with Android. They allow other people to make that technology, third parties can give you a choice. Have you given any thought to a little bit less control?

Cook: Yeah, of course. On the general topic of opening up APIs, I think you’ll see us open up more in the future, but not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience. So there’s always a fine line to walk there, or maybe not so fine. We think the customer pays us to make choices on their behalf. I’ve see some of these settings screens, and I don’t think that’s what customers want. Do some want it? Yes. But you’ll see us open up more.

Walt: So there’ll be some features you’ll let third parties do? 

Cook: Yes.

This is huge—particularly for a company who has a reputation for being ‘closed.’ It notoriously rules the App Store with an iron fist, denying new apps and pulling old ones that fall outside its strict guidelines. It’s hard to imagine it ever taking an ‘open’ stance on anything.

Speculation on what Cook was referring to in the comments is already running rampant. Previous reports suggested Apple is exploring widgets— so perhaps it’ll open up the Notification Center or Lock screen to developers, allowing them to serve up app data at a glance.

Whatever it is, here’s hoping that we’ll get a glimpse of it at WWDC next month. Apple has confirmed that Tim Cook and team will be using the high profile developer conference to show previews of its next generation desktop and mobile operating systems, OSX and iOS.

While I agree with Cook that many current iOS users look to Apple to make choices on their behalf, to protect the ‘it just works’ element of its products, I also think that it could appeal to a much wider audience by simply offering more freedom within iOS and the App Store.

What do you think? And bonus question: if Apple did open up iOS, what would that do to the jailbreak community?