An official software-development kit may finally be announced at January's Macworld. Why the wait? It may have something to do with Leopard.

William Hurley loves his iPhone. But he'd love it even more if he could write software for it.

He's not alone. Hundreds of programmers showed up at an iPhone event organized by Hurley, an executive at software maker BMC (BMC), even though Apple hasn't released the source code they need to exploit the device. That was in July, and the criticism of Apple's refusal to open the iPhone hasn't died down.

Now it appears Apple (AAPL) will soon answer those pleas. Sources familiar with the company's plans tell BusinessWeek.com that Apple will release a software-development kit for the iPhone in early 2008, enabling programmers to create games, business-productivity tools, and countless other applications for the device. Few details are known, but sources say an announcement will come in January, which suggests it may be slated for Jan. 15, when Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs takes the stage at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

Why the wait? Some analysts suggest the delay has little to do with frustrating developers or Apple's official position about bugs from third-party software posing a threat to cellular networks. Instead, the timing may have more to do with Apple wanting to wait at least until the launch of the new operating system for its Macintosh computers. Known by the code name Leopard, it was originally planned for June, 2007, but is now expected at the end of October. Since the iPhone was built with the current Mac OS, the thinking is that Leopard's new capabilities will enable more robust features on the iPhone as well.

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