Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said on Wednesday that outside developers will be allowed to create programs for the iPhone, changing a policy that had angered many.
Blocking outsiders from making programs that would run easily on the iPhone has been one of a series of restrictions that have annoyed users, even leading to some lawsuits.
Jobs, in comments on Apple's Web site, said a kit for developers still will not be available until February, as the company works out how to open up the phone without exposing it to malicious programs.
"We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones," Jobs wrote in Apple's web site
Developers have tried to open up the iPhone for use in the United States on networks beyond Apple's U.S. partner, AT&T , though Apple has blocked many such moves. Spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said Apple has not changed its policy on locking the phone to other networks.
But until now, Apple also had stopped software engineers from creating whatever they wanted to run on the iPhone, without delivering them through the iPhone's Web browser.
Many applications have been created for use on those terms, but consumers and software makers have seen that as an extra layer of rules and technology that was unnecessary and throttled innovation.
Under the new policy, applications will be allowed to run in so-called native mode.
Jobs said he expects malicious developers to focus on the iPhone. "Since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target," he said.
Apple could require a digital signature for programs to authenticate their developer, he added, referring to a system that he said mobile phone maker Nokia is implementing.
While this makes such a phone less than "totally open, we believe it is a step in the right direction," Jobs said.
"We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones," Jobs added.
Unlocked iPhone in France
In related news mobile operator Orange is expected to begin selling an unlocked iPhone in France next month. This is due to a French law that prohibits exclusively bundling a handset with a wireless carrier.
The unlocked iPhone is expected to cost more that €399.
iTunes Plus for 99 Cents
Apple also announced that it has expanded its iTunes Plus offering to over two million tracks and lowered the price of all iTunes Plus tracks to just 99 cents. All iTunes Plus tracks feature DRM-free music with 256 kbps AAC encoding.