Apple has released the beta of the iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) and now third party applications can be officially developed for the iPhone. Apple will continue to be the sole distributor of the applications which will be available for download to users in a iTunes like model ( called App Store).
The iPhone upped the ante when it came to the interface. Apple proved that the device could accept user input in a more intuitive manner (finger gestures), and also provide a much larger display area which makes a big difference when it comes to mobile devices. However, several technologies embedded in the device such as the accelerometer ( which alternates the view on the device from horizontal to vertical based on how the iPhone is held) can have immense applications which can be explored by way of third party software.
The iPhone SDK
The Software Development Kit is the first signal that Apple is seriously mulling a lucrative business model around the third party application development community. Recently we saw a huge uptake of third party software development for the FaceBook Social Networking platform. With a mobile device, the audience is that much larger in number and it makes perfect sense to target that base.
The iPhone SDK will be available as a free download from the Apple’s site but for providing the applications to users, developers will have to first register with Apple for an ID. In addition, developers will have to pay a one time fee of $99 and 30% of the sales revenues of the software created using the SDK to Apple. Apple has relaxed the rules for software distributed as freeware.
The softwares will be available to users via the ‘App Store’, a portal that follows the same model as that used by users to purchase music via iTunes. Apple will be the sole distributor for the applications and they will ensure that software with malicious intents and those that relentlessly hog the network are taken down and the registrations of the developers are canceled. The management of software updates for the applications installed by users will be done by the iPhone and also the users get to sync the applications with their PCs but cannot use multiple copies of purchased applications across several iPhones.
Impact on the enterprise
Much has been witnessed in the past and is being said now about how the SDK will have an immense impact on the individual consumer. But that is a bridge Apple has always crossed and conquered. The real watch zone is how the iPhone penetrates the enterprise arena currently dominated by the BlackBerrys and Palms. Technologically, the iPhone is a sure win, but it is the all-under-our-control aspect of Apple that may need a bit of relaxation. For example, when launching applications on the iPhone specifically for employees in an enterprise, the firm would want control over the distribution. Apple has said it is developing a model fit for the enterprise but details need to be made clear.
A significant event in the iPhone application space is how the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) is betting high on the developer community and has set aside a fund of $100 million (iFund) to back applications on the iPhone. Clearly, there are great expectations on the iPhone in making serious inroads in the enterprise other than just email syncing.