Apple Unveils SDK: Enterprise & Consumers Courted

Push email, Active Sync, professional gaming tie-ins (Spore!), wireless downloads, 'App Store' AND a three month delay before you can get it...

Right, it’s here. This is the skinny…

Let’s get the disappointment out the way first: it’s not coming until ”late” June and while it will be free to iPhone owners (and ship with all new handsets) iPod touch users will pay a ‘nominal’ charge (they really are turning out to be second class citizens).

Ok, now with the good – because there’s a lot of it.

To appease the enterprise community there will support for *deep breath* push email, push contacts, global address list, Cisco IPsec VPN, Certificates and Identities, enterprise class WiFi (WPA2 / 802.1x), enforced security policies, enterprise configuration tools and remote wipe. Furthermore, Microsoft Exchange will be built-in with full ActiveSync support that communicates directly with the Exchange server – very nifty.

Next the SDK specifically. This will be the same tool Apple itself uses and is comprised of four layers (Cocoa Touch, Media, Core Services and Core OS). ‘Interface Builder’ enables programmers to build the application interface (*shock + horror*) while the very cool ‘iPhone Simulator’ mimics the iPhone exactly on the desktop letting apps be tested.

Utilisation looks to be intuitive and Scott Forstall, head of the SDK development, threw together a basic app live on stage, before showing an image manipulation tool he claimed was compiled in two days and even an advanced 3D, Open GL, touch and accelerometer based shooter (‘Touch Fighter’) that he boasts took just two weeks.

So what about the professionals? Here’s where it gets really interesting. EA is developing a version of ”’Spore”’ with all 18 levels while Sega is making Super Monkey Ball! Both look stunning – perhaps not surprising given the 620MHz ARM CPU onboard – and, in my opinion, comparable to titles on the original Xbox!

AOL Instant Messenger is also coming with a full gesture based interface though nothing was mentioned of Lotus Notes or BBC iPlayer – two heavily anticipated apps.

As for distribution, we’re into WiFi iTunes territory here with a similar tool named ‘App Store’ (logo above). Like WiFi iTunes this categorises apps as well as listing most popular ones and has a search tool. As with WiFi iTunes applications can be grabbed from it directly or over desktop iTunes and synchronised.

Pricing is straightforward: developers set the price and Apple takes 30 per cent. If a developer wants their app to be free Apple won’t charge a thing – seems fair. Entry to the developer programme will cost $99 though. Yep, there are limitations: no porn (doh), no malicious or illegal apps are allowed (including unlocking), no bandwidth hogs and no tools which Apple deems to have privacy issues. All apps have to come through iTunes (either on the handset or desktop) so crackers expecting to slide one by look high and dry.

Everything announced today will be packaged in a large Firmware 2.0 release arriving in (you got it) late June. To support the SDK there will also be an ‘iFund’ of $100m provided by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This money pool will be used to invest in companies developing applications and services for the SDK. Motivator much?

One last detail that came out in the SDK: parental controls will be added with 2.0 to limit access to videos/sites on YouTube and Safari (parents can afford to buy their kids iPhones…?).

Points still unclear:

*How do enterprise distributed apps get on the iPhone?

*How much is firmware 2.0 going to be on the touch? (These chargeable updates are getting out of hand)

*It remains unclear whether apps can be combined with hardware attachments through the dock connector (eg GPS modules)

*Will the June launch co-incide with a new iPhone model? (My guess: ”’Hell Yeah!”’)

*No Lotus Notes and BBC iPlayer app details

*No Flash news

*No VoIP hints (unlikely given the locked in nature of country-specific telcos and their infamous revenue sharing deals)

That’s all folks, move along.

Press Release

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