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Hackers working on Safari-based app installer

A tool in the works called Lima lets iOS users browse and install apps and other system tweaks through Safari, completely bypassing Apple's App Store and third-party app installers.

Not content with Apple's App Store as a software distribution mechanism, a group of iOS developers is taking matters into its own hands by working on a tool to let iPhone users browse and install applications and system tweaks through Safari.

Spotted by the iPhone Download Blog, the new project dubbed "Lima" is the creation of the Infini Dev Team and aims to complement, and perhaps one day replace, third-party application installers already available to those with jailbroken iOS devices. The hack lets users install applications from third-party software repositories, hosted on the Web and accessed through the iPhone's Safari browser.

Infini Dev Team, which has also taken over the responsibilities of updating and supporting Icy--one of the early third-party iOS application installers--says it will maintain a list of the repositories, and thus control over where users are able to download applications from. Developer James A. Matoe, who is a part of the group, said on Twitter that the group plans to block two high-profile repositories that contain pirated copies of iOS applications.

In a demo video, which is posted below, an early view of the software demonstrates this working to install a system tweak that adds one extra application spot to iOS' multitasking bar. The video begins with the user having the default four applications, and ending with five following the installation:

The idea is of special interest to the iPhone and iOS in general, given that competitor Google has long offered users of the Android OS a way to install applications through the browser that ships with the phone. Near the end of last year, Google also offered an augmentation to its Chrome to Phone technology, allowing users to remotely install applications to their Android device, a feature that later made it into prominence on Google's Android Market site.

Infini Dev Team says Lima, which also goes by the name of "fr0st", is still a work in progress and it is not providing an estimated time of arrival.