It struck me yesterday reading Steve Jobs' personal note about plans for third-party apps on the iPhone that the most telling thing about the announcement was the opening five-word phrase:
Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February.
Let me just say it. What we're starting to see here (and of course in the anti-DRM letter from earlier this year) is a pretty significant shift in Jobs' public relations strategy, in that he seems to have recognized that there are limits to secrecy. Yes, some developments are best kept under wraps for as long as possible -- like the iPhone or the Intel switch -- contrary to all the principles of Web 2.0 openness and transparency. But with other decisions, you're sometimes much better off going public early, and exposing some of your thought process when you do. I had been thinking about posting something over the past week or two about the iPhone SDK issue, arguing that if Apple indeed was planning on opening up the platform sometime in the nearish future, there was absolutely no reason not to announce those plans -- unlike release specs for, say, the iPhone, keeping the SDK plans secret wasn't a competitive advantage in any sense, and it was bringing on a ton of ill will from people who would otherwise be iPhone fanatics.
But as it turns out, I didn't need to write that post, because Jobs decided to go public with Apple's plans, even if they weren't fully-formed. That suggests to me that he's still evolving as a CEO and as a PR wizard, still capable of adapting to new situations -- yet another reason for Apple's competitors to be nervous.
Here's my big question, though: I wonder whether Apple had the SDK as part of its plans all along, and merely changed its mind about whether to go public with it in response to the criticism -- or were they truly debating the merits of opening up the platform, and thus reluctant to say anything until they were 100% sure of their plans?