When the iPhone in arrived 2007, this was Steve Jobs’ preferred way to do third party applications:
We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of the iPhone so developers can write great apps for it, but keep the iPhone secure. And we’ve come up with a very. Sweet. Solution. Let me tell you about it. An innovative new way to create applications for mobile devices… it’s all based on the fact that we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone. And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, check email, look up a location on Gmaps… don’t worry about distribution, just put ‘em on an internet server. They’re easy to update, just update it on your server. They’re secure, and they run securely sandboxed on the iPhone. And guess what, there’s no SDK you need! You’ve got everything you need if you can write modern web apps…
But the platform and the developer community weren’t ready for it, so Apple was quickly forced to come up with an SDK
So it seems that Apple was four years early on its iPhone developer solution, and that in bowing to public pressure in 2007 to deliver an SDK, it made a ton of money that it otherwise wouldn’t have:
A web service which mirrors or enhances the experience of a downloaded app significantly weakens the control that a platform company like Apple has over its user base. This has already been seen in examples like the Financial Times newspaper’s HTML5 app, which has already outsold its former iOS native app, with no revenue cut going to Apple.