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iPhone Lets Developers Inside

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 6, 2008 3:34 PM PT

In a special media event for journalists and industry analysts Thursday, Apple unveiled its iPhone Software Roadmap. As was widely expected, Apple announced details for its Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone and in a surprise move went even farther than expected by announcing significantly beefed up support for enterprise environments.

iPhone Lets Developers Inside

All of the new features are tied up in the iPhone 2.0 software, which is available to businesses and developers now in beta form but won't be available to consumers until late June.

When late June arrives -- which happens to to the one-year anniversary of the iPhone -- consumers will be able to install the 2.0 software update on their iPhones and buy third-party applications and games.

"We're excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community with potentially thousands of native applications for iPhone and iPod touch," noted Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

"iPhone's enterprise features combined with its revolutionary Multi-Touch user interface and advanced software architecture provide the best user experience and the most advanced software platform ever for a mobile device," he added.

Conquering the Enterprise

Perhaps the most compelling new enterprise features are support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, which means that the iPhone will connect "out-of-the-box" to Microsoft Exchange Servers 2003 and 2007. This gives enterprise customers secure, over-the-air push e-mail, contacts and calendars as well as remote wipe capabilities that can erase the contents of the iPhone in case it gets lost or stolen. Plus, Apple has included -- at the request of its enterprise customers -- the addition of Cisco IPsec VPN (virtual private network) for encrypted access to private corporate networks.

"We've had some great customers right at the forefront wanting to work with us to adopt the iPhone into their enterprise environments. For example, Genentech. As you know Genentech is the world's leading biotech company," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said at the event.

"Right now at Genentech, they have thousands of iPhones deployed across multiple organizations from sales to R&D (research and development)," he explained.

Schiller also noted that Stanford University also has hundreds of iPhones already deployed.

Changing Minds

Overall, the iPhone has been nailed time and time again by the business-focused world for being insecure and closed to software development, and Apple clearly hopes these announcements result in iPhone adoption in the enterprise.

"One of the things I've said from the outset is that iPhone is not an enterprise device and shouldn't be considered to be one -- I was pretty snide in suggesting that lots of executives would be trying to claim they are business smartphones because they wanted their IT to pay for it instead of having to shell out (US)$600 of their own," David Chamberlain, a principal wireless analyst for In-Stat, told MacNewsWorld. "However, the one thing that really jumps out at me is that they're including the hooks for Microsoft ActiveSync ... now the business guys can get their IT department to buy one for them."

The iPhone 2.0 software also provides a configuration utility that lets IT administrators set up many iPhones at one time, including password policies, VPN settings, installing certificates, e-mail server settings and more. Once the configuration is defined it can be easily and securely delivered via Web link or e-mail to the user, Apple reported. To install, all the user has to do is authenticate with a user ID or password, download the configuration and tap Install. Once installed, the user will have access to all their corporate IT services.

The SDK

"People programming for mobile haven't had an Apple platform to work with. People programming for Apple haven't had a mobile platform. This [the iPhone SDK] finally brings those two together and, for the most part, should be a bigger benefit to Apple by offering something that is attractive to a larger number of developers," Chamberlain said. There are already developers working for the Android platform, which can be a considered a rival to Apple, and those developers may already have a head start, he noted.

The iPhone SDK provides developers with a rich set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and tools to create applications for the iPhone and the iPod touch, Apple said. Starting today, anyone can download the beta iPhone SDK for free and run the iPhone Simulator on their Mac, which lets them quickly test new applications without needing to directly install them on an iPhone first.

Apple also introduced its new iPhone Developer Program, which is designed to give developers everything they need to create native applications. As for a sales channel, Apple -- unsurprisingly -- will control that by giving developers a way to wirelessly deliver their applications to every iPhone and iPod touch user. iPhone customers will be able to buy apps directly from their iPhones, as well as download and install them. They will also be able to do it via iTunes. The third-party developers will be able to name their price, of which they'll get 70 percent, while Apple will take 30 percent.

Enterprise customers will be able to create a secure, private page on the App Store accessible only by their employees, Apple said, and Apple will cover all credit card, Web hosting, infrastructure and DRM (digital rights management) costs associated with offering applications on the App Store. Third party iPhone and iPod touch applications must be approved by Apple and will be available exclusively through the App Store.

Early reaction to the SDK has been predominantly positive -- the Apple developer servers that are delivering the free download have reportedly slowed to a crawl ever since the announcement went live Thursday.

During the beta iPhone SDK program, a limited number of developers will be accepted into Apple's new iPhone Developer Program and offered the ability to get code onto iPhones for testing. The Standard Program costs $99 per year and gives members an iPhone SDK and development tools; access to pre-release iPhone software; technical support; the ability to get code onto iPhones for testing; and distribution of applications via the new App Store, Apple reported. The Enterprise Program costs $299 per year.


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