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What operating system does the iPhone use? Can it run MacOS X applications like Skype and Photoshop?
This Q&A was written first on February 5, 2007, when the operating system on the iPhone did not have a formal name and many readers were unclear regarding software compatibility. Now that thousands of applications are available specifically for the "iOS," this Q&A is less necessary, but it still may be of interest for "historical" reference.
iPhone runs OS X! Why would we want to run such a sophisticated OS on a mobile device? It's got everything we need. Multitasking, networking, power management, security, video, graphics, audio, core animation. . . It let us create desktop class applications and networking, not the crippled stuff you find on most phones, these are real desktop applications.
Not surprisingly, given that Steve Jobs said the iPhone "runs OS X" and "these are real desktop applications", many immediately thought that the iPhone was able to run Mac OS X desktop applications like Skype and Photoshop. However, the rather sparse original iPhone technical specifications page on the Apple website noted that the iPhone does in fact run "OS X" as Jobs proclaimed during the keynote, but it does not run Mac OS X.
Essentially, the iPhone runs a scaled down version of Mac OS X optimized for a handheld device -- although Steve Jobs was insistent that it runs "real OS X" (Specifically, crashlogs indicate that the original iPhone ran "OS X 1.0" build number 1A543a.) -- but no iPhone models can run Mac OS X applications regardless. On March 17, 2009, upon unveiling a developer's preview of the third version of the operating system, Apple started referring to it as the "iPhone OS" and on June 7, 2010, the company again changed the name to just "iOS".
In the original iPhone Q&A published on February 5, 2007, EveryiPhone.com noted:
However, many likely are disappointed that Apple is not openly allowing third parties to develop true applications for the iPhone.Apple had "not decided" whether to enable a voice-over-Internet service like Skype -- a potentially divisive issue for Cingular, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone, because it could come at the expense of cellular voice revenue.
Without an open third-party developers program, those hoping for a version of Skype compatible with the iPhone probably should not hold their breath. Apple is unlikely to develop a program in-house that is compatible with Skype or hire Skype to create a version of their product compatible with the iPhone.
Thankfully on October 17, 2007, Apple reversed the foolish decision to not allow third-party development and promised an official SDK in February 2008. The SDK was released on March 6, 2008, and developers immediately began working on applications.
On March 3, 2008, Apple stated that the company would allow the development of VOIP software that uses wi-fi (it would not allow VOIP software to use the cellular network) and ever sense that time the masses had been eagerly awaiting a version of Skype for the iPhone. On March 26, 2009, GigaOM was the first to break the news that Skype for the iPhone was forthcoming, and sure enough, on March 31, 2009, it was officially released to cheers across the Internet.
Skype for the iPhone is free, so one has little to lose by downloading it and trying it out, but iLounge has provided a review that may be of interest. Needless to say, fans of Skype should be thrilled that the option of officially making Skype calls on the iPhone using wi-fi finally has become possible.
No. The iPhone cannot run any Mac OS X applications, including games. It also cannot run applications written for pre-iPod touch models. However, after opening the device to third-party development, the floodgates opened and a huge variety of games have subsequently been written for the iPhone and iPod touch models.