Signed Certificates: Approved by Apple in California

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Roughly Drafted Magazine's Daniel Eran Dilger along with Jason Smith have written up an article detailing how signing certificates work, and what they mean for would-be iPhone developers.

Last May, I asked Steve Jobs for a public comment to clarify Apple’s plans for third party software for the iPhone. He assured me that Apple did indeed recognize a market for software outside of the web platform outlined for the iPhone, but was “wrestling” with how to balance openness with security.

They cover the brief history of App signing, how it works (like a drivers license that can be suspended for illegal activity), and the benefits and drawbacks for that type of system (restricted access vs. secure environment).

The simple threat of revocation would likely be enough to prevent legitimate developers from allowing fly-by-night spammers and identity thieves to use their assigned certificates to sign and distribute malicious software. Apple can also vet software as it is submitted, and rapidly respond to user complaints by terminating the distribution and revoking the run rights of signed software. With such a system in place, there’s no need for iPhone anti-virus software. Our children will never know why Symantec and Norton ever existed.

(For a differing opinion, see Rogue Amoeba: Will App-solute Power Corrupt?)

RIM/Blackberry and Nokia's signing models are discussed, with fees ranging from $100 per App to $780 for full-feature access, to $1295 packages. Dilger and Smith also compare the relative costs of developing for console games ($10,000+ after being slashed nearly in half) compared to the $0, $99, $299 iPhone tiers.

Likewise, the development environments for Java, Android, Palm, Symbian, and WinMob, all of which cater to a wide range of hardware, are compared to the iPhone's (familiar to existing Mac developers) single-device focus.

Lastly, Dilger and Smith wrap up with the 70/30 App Store cut debate, pointing out Danger's 50% cut, Handango's 40%, and Nokia's 40%-50%.

(For more views on this, check out Devs on Apps: Charge Us More, Users Less and First, Free, Finest: The Three Pillars of App Success?)

While Microsoft, Symbian, RIM, and others scramble to offer their own software stores that can match iTunes, it will all be too little, too late. Apple has the cohesive platform grabbing the most attention, the most familiar and modern developer tools, and the most most trusted consumer software store. By offering developers guaranteed sales and sustainable profits at a low cost of entry, no smartphone vendor is going to be able to match the sophistication of apps that sprout up around the iPhone.

Are Dilger and Smith giving a fair assessment of the iPhone's position in the current market? Or is this just more rampant Mac'tivism at work? Personally, I think the distribution terms are better than most I've experienced, but I'm waiting to see how the approval process goes before making any final opinions. What do you think?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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