Dear Tim Cook: please let scientists and students run their research software on iOS

This is the second unanswered email I sent Tim Cook on the subject of the iOS software lockdown. Here are the first and the third.
In short, there is a long tail of software that cannot be distributed through the App Store, for a variety of valid reasons, but would be ideal for the iPad or the iPhone. That is really too bad for researchers and all the users of specialized software who cannot use their iDevices in their work.
At last year’s WWDC you revealed that Apple has 16 million registered developers. That is a truly amazing number.
I am writing about all the other people who write software as part of their job, just not for the App Store.
A large contingent of those programmers is made of scientists. From archeologists to zoologists, they all write experimental software for their own use, for their students and for their colleagues. They often it release as free or open source software for everyone else to build upon. And many would love to run that software on their iPads and iPhones instead of lugging their laptops around.
The breadth and quality of specialized open source packages is every bit as amazing as the number of Apple registered developers. Unfortunately, most of it cannot be used on iOS for two main reasons:
1. Scientists use languages like Matlab, R, Python, Julia, Haskell, OCamL, Visual Basic, etc. because they pick languages they are comfortable with and that are best suited to the job at hand. Because of the restrictions on importing code into iOS apps or on installing software not compiled with Xcode, their programs cannot be run on iOS.
2. Open source packages that compile to native code are distributed as shared libraries. Those libraries (and their dependencies) compile on Linux, macOS and sometimes Windows with little or no change. For iOS, significant work would be required from the volunteer maintainers to support Xcode and static libraries. The result is that only the relatively few packages that are useful in mainstream iOS apps end up being supported.
In order to solve that problem and let scientists (as well as many other categories of programmers) run their software on their iPhones and iPads, would you please consider allowing non-App Store software on iOS, just like on macOS?
Thank you very much for your time and attention.
Cheers,
-Benoit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *