Apple will make its software APIs to third-party developers, says Tim Cook. But he argues that the customer 'pays us to make choices on their behalf'.
Speaking at the D11 conference yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to open up the company's software APIs to third-party developers, but warned that Apple's first priority would be the user experience.
Opening up the API, or application programming interface, for Mac OS X and iOS will make it easier for third-party software makers to manipulate the operating system itself, and thus make greater use of the iPhone and iPad's capabilities - using the lock screen, for instance, which only Apple apps can currently do, or changing the default keyboard when using their app.
One example of open API benefits that the interview mentioned was Facebook's Home software, which has its Chat Heads feature embedded deeply into the Google Android platform. But Cook disagreed that such a feature was right for Apple and its users.
"The customer pays us to make choices on their behalf," he argued, emphasising that Apple would protect the user against any "risk of having a bad experience".
In the perennial argument between open (Google Android) and closed (Apple iOS), Apple advocates always return to iOS's generally higher standard of user experience, which is made possible by Apple's tighter control: by maintaining a rigorous hold on both hardware and software design, it can be sure that every user will experience iOS in a prescribed way.
Google Android is notorious for the numerous rogue apps that make it through the net and affect the experience negatively. But even if an iOS app gets approval - which is tougher on Apple's App Store that on Google Play - third-party developers for iOS are able to affect the overall experience far less.
The payoff for this greater control, of course, is that it prevents some developer innovation that could greatly improve the experience - but that's the bargain Apple has historically accepted.
All of which makes Cook's prophecy - "But you'll see us open up more" - an interesting development. Keep tuned to Macworld.co.uk for developments as they emerge.