Recapping the Apple iPhone software development event

Apple iPhone

Steve Jobs led off the much anticipated event with a few statistics on the success of the iPhone (for example, Safari now accounts for about 71 percent of US mobile browser usage). Then it was time for the important stuff.

On the enterprise front, Apple promised that the next iPhone software release will include push email and improved integration with calendars, contacts and enterprise global address lists. Apple announced that it had licensed the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol to offer native syncing and support with Microsoft Exchange. It will also offer security policies, VPN access and remote wiping and device configuration for improved administration.

As expected, Apple also provided more information on how it plans to open up its SDK to third-party developers. Many who develop for the Mac will find that developing for the iPhone is very similar to developing on the former. Apple is opening up the same APIs that it uses to build its iPhone applications ot third-party developers.

The SDK will come with a number of development tools. For example, it will use iPhone-modified versions of Xcode, Interface Builder, and Instruments, all tools available in the current Mac SDK. It will also come with an iPhone simulator, letting you test your applications without having to install them on an iPhone. Cocoa Touch is an update to Cocoa that will provide access to the iPhone’s touch interface, including multi-touch controls.

Developers will also get to play with the iPhone accelerometer. For example, a game called Touch Fighter was demonstrated. Flying through space, you control your fighter by using the iPhone like a steering wheel. When you rotate the iPhone to the right, the fighter turns right. To fire, simply tap.

A number of third party developers have already gotten their hands on the SDK. Electronic Arts demonstrated a basic mobile version of their upcoming game Spore and AOL showed off an iPhone version of AIM.

To distribute the new applications, Apple announced the App Store. Right from your iPhone, you will be able to search for and download applications and games. It’s very similar to the Wi-Fi Music Store but for software. It will also be available through iTunes. Developers get to set the price of their applications and Apple will take a 30 percent cut of the price (no charge for free applications). It will also cost USD$99 to publish applications.

The Apple iPhone 2.0 software update will contain all of these new features. Available in beta today, it is expected to officially ship in late June. It will be free for the iPhone but there will be a fee for the iPod touch upgrade (due to different accounting practices between the two devices).

One more thing: A USD$100 million iFund will be offered to iPhone developers. Details were scarce on how it will work though.