Apple Shows App Dev Energy Turning To Smartphones - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Apple Shows App Dev Energy Turning To Smartphones

It's courting developers in an effort to make the iPhone a business-friendly tool.

Since the release of the iPhone last June, software developers and would-be business users have longed for applications like e-mail and calendars to run directly on the sleek and popular device, rather than just Web applications that run on its browser. Now they have them, thanks to a new software development kit and promised upgrades to the iPhone's 2.0 software.

Taking dead aim at business smartphone platforms, most notably Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wants to turn this pricey consumer toy into a power- ful business tool for mobile professionals.

Going further than expected, Apple is throwing open the iPhone platform to third-party applications. "We're opening the same native APIs and tools we use to build our iPhone apps" to independent developers, says VP of platform experience Scott Forstall.

Program me like you mean it

Program me like you mean it
Apple, being Apple, still controls distribution of those applications. It's creating an "Apps Store" that will live on every iPhone, through which developers can sell their wares. For commercial applications, the developers get 70% and Apple gets 30%; there's no charge to distribute free apps. Apple's control raises concerns about how varied and rich the available software will be, though Jobs promised to weed out only malware and porn: "Will there be limitations? Of course."

Perhaps even more significant than the SDK for business IT managers are the built-in capabilities coming in the iPhone 2.0 software update, due in early summer, close to the one-year anniversary of the device's release. "There are a lot of things enterprise customers have told us that hold us back from being huge in the enterprise," says Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller.

Apple says it's building Microsoft Exchange support to allow push e-mail, calendaring, contacts, and global address lists, plus the ability to remotely delete data. Notably, Apple struck a partnership with its longtime rival to do it. "We have licensed ActiveSync for the iPhone," declared Schiller, to whoops and gasps from the audience.

At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference almost a year ago, Jobs promised developers the ability to "write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone." Yet software savants were left to cobble together Web applications for the smartphone without Apple's help, hardly inspiring the loyalty of the developer community. Apple sees this SDK release changing that.

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