Ever since Apple finally lifted the NDA covering the iPhone SDK, a small number of developers have started to open source their native iPhone apps. Today, Freshbooks, a popular online time-tracking and invoicing service, joined this group by open sourcing its native iPhone application. Other open source iPhone apps include Wordpress, the applications from Apps Amuck's 31 Days of iPhone Apps, and a collection of source code for handling the iPhone's touch controls.

Building a Community

As Freshbook's Sunir Shah rightly points out, an open source ecosystem can only thrive when enough developers decide to join the community. Right now, the open source iPhone apps that are available are quite good, but there are also very few of them. Apple itself puts too many road blocks in front of potential developers, which, as Shah argues, will lead most of these collaborative projects to develop web apps instead of native apps. However, given the limitations of the web apps platform compared to the native iPhone platform, these applications won't be able to really harness the power of these devices.


For open source advocates, Apple's closed operating system is clearly no match for Google's Android, however. After all, Android not only makes open source collaboration easier by making the SDK available for free (Apple charges $99 Update: Apple makes the SDK available for free, but developers need to pay to get access all the other developer resources and a chance of inclusion in the App Store), but Google has even open sourced the operating system itself.

We hope that more developers will join these open source iPhone initiatives, but currently, Apple isn't exactly making things easy for developers. Even something as simple as giving an application out to a large group of beta testers is still cumbersome.