Thursday, March 6, 2008

Apple Set to Reveal Road to Third-Party iPhone Apps


The iPhone has received acclaim as cellphone, personal information organizer, web browser and e-mail client. Now, it's about to become a remote control, a game platform, a photo-editing platform, a device for remotely accessing your desktop files, and maybe much more.

Four months of rumors, speculation and giddy anticipation will come to an end Thursday, as Apple prepares to reveal how it will transform one of the most-hyped devices in tech into a full-fledged platform.

"The iPhone is the richest mobile platform that we've ever had," says Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin.

And yet, that platform has until recently been officially open only to web developers. To date, Apple has forced developers to create iPhone applications through one conduit: the phone's browser. While that approach simplified development, it never gave developers access to the truly alluring bits of the device, like its accelerometer, voice capabilities and touchscreen. It also forced developers who wanted to create more sophisticated apps -- like a utility that lets you remotely control a Mac desktop from an iPhone -- to go around the iPhone's security with jailbreaking hacks.

Steve Jobs caved last October and said Apple would release a full-blown software developer's kit once the company could ensure security on the phone. Presumably, that's been accomplished, and the fancy apps available only on jailbroken iPhones may soon be available legitimately on any iPhone.

At this point, it's still not clear whether Apple intends to officially release the SDK at Thursday's event or just make some announcement. At any rate, the SDK will be in programmers' hands soon, and analysts and developers expect a wide variety of applications to blossom in the coming months -- everything from photo-editing apps to motion-sensing games that take advantage of the device's orientation sensor.

The possibilities, as Mac developer Daniel Jalkut recently noted, will be limited only by developers' imaginations.

Those possibilities will be also influenced by a number of outstanding questions about Apple's planned app-distribution method, the vetting process it will use, and any iPhone access restrictions the company imposes on developers. The company is expected to provide answers to those questions as well on Thursday.

At the very least, Thursday's SDK event will involve an announcement about new enterprise features for the iPhone, according to an invitation circulated last week.

While enterprise software may not be as sexy as movie and game apps, its inclusion could be huge for Apple's ability to meet its goal of 10 million iPhone sales by the end of the year.

By adding features like push e-mail and cultivating relationships with corporate-software vendors, Bajarin says, the iPhone could become one of the major communication platforms in business, making it much more competitive with the corporate-friendly BlackBerry.

"Ultimately, that's why I believe [Apple is] confident it can reach its 10 million goal by the end of the year," he says. "With an SDK and major corporate-software vendors backing it, we'll see the iPhone finally transcend the consumer business this year."



[Source: http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/news/2008/03/iphone_sdk_preview]

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