In introducing the iPhone 3G on Monday, Apple launched more than just a smartphone with a faster data connection. The company also made a major strategic play for developers, which it is depending on to drive the device deeper into business and consumer markets.
"Everything [(businesses] told us they wanted we have built into the iPhone's software right out of the box," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said during his opening keynote at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Those features include full-support for the popular Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, support for network security standards, automatic discovery of the device within network management software, and the ability to remotely wipeout data on a lost or stolen iPhone.
But Apple's success in driving the iPhone into businesses, and making it more compelling for consumers over competing devices from Palm, Nokia, or BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, will depend on how well developers take to the software development kit, which is tied to the application programming interfaces that expose the services within the iPhone's operating system. Those services include tying applications to the device's touch-screen interface, new global positioning system for location-based applications, security protocols, and multimedia functions.
While the jury is still out, early indications are that business developers are taking to the platform. "We're going to see a very strong set of enterprise applications available on the iPhone," Gartner analyst Van Baker said. "We shall see, but that seems to be the indication -- enterprise developers are stepping up to the platform."
Apple claims that since releasing the SDK in March, more than a quarter million people have downloaded the kit. Jobs says that 35% of the Fortune 500 companies have participated in Apple's beta program for developing business applications for the iPhone.
During Jobs' keynote, companies that demonstrated applications that they have built for the iPhone include game makers Sega and Pangea Software, auction site eBay, news agency The Associated Press, Major League Baseball, and medical software companies MIMvista and Modality.
"We think we have a fantastic platform here for people to build incredible applications," Jobs said.
The tools Apple has provided within the SDK include a coding environment called xCode, an interface builder, an iPhone simulator for the Mac and the ability to test and debug applications directly on the iPhone. Apple also provides software instruments for testing the performance of applications.
Once applications are built, private developers can offer them through Apple's App Store, which launches with the new iPhone next month. Business, on the other hand, will have the tools to distribute applications through their own corporate networks.
To Ken Dulaney, analyst for Gartner, Apple's focus on developers goes beyond just the iPhone. Because the development tools and platform for the Mac OS X are similar, it wouldn't be difficult for developers to start building applications for Apple notebooks and desktops.
"That to me is probably the big strategic move that Apple wants to see the marketplace take," Dulaney said. "That could be a much broader attack on the enterprise than just the iPhone."
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