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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Apple knows how to launch a platform

I'm in the midst of writing an analysis piece for Yankee about what Apple's announcement of its iPhone Software Development Kit means for enterprises. But here's the short version:

Apple just showed everyone how to grow a developer ecosystem.

Apple kicked off the announcement by giving enterprises features they had requested to approve iPhone uses in business, including:

  • Microsoft ActiveSync built in for secure push email and remote wipe and Exchange integration,
  • 802.1x and WPA2 WiFi security,
  • Cisco VPN support for secure communication

But then Apple kicked things up a notch with the SDK details, which included:

  • Complete integration with Apple's existing developer framework, Xcode,
  • Performance analysis tools to make apps run fast on the iPhone
  • Access to nearly every API on the device, including OpenGL, multi-touch, WiFi, accelerometers
  • A full iPhone simulator to help with debugging.

Just to prove this wasn't hype, Apple gave the SDK to a group of companies for about two weeks to see what they could do with it. Each of those companies created versions of their applications in that time, including Electronic Arts' Spore, Salesforce's Salesforce Automation Epocrates's instant messenger, Epocrates' Drug Identifier, and Sega's Super Monkey Ball. Not bad for two weeks of work.

But the real surprise was Apple's efforts to market and develop an ecosystem for third-party iPhone development. Marketing and distribution terms were:

  • All third-party applications will be distributed through a new iPhone AppStore. Developers wishing to do so pay a $99 fee, but can set their own prices for their apps, including free should they choose to do so.
  • iTunes will have a part of its store dedicated to third-party apps and promoting the top downloads. Developers get 70% of revenues for paid apps.
  • Kleiner Perkins is launching a $100 million iFund to fund iPhone developer companies. That means money shouldn't be a barrier to getting an great third-party iPhone software business off the ground.

Now I know that not everyone will agree with all the details, and I think everyone expected Apple to seed iPhone development with its SDK. But what Apple actually did is till the ground for development with enterprise features, seed it with the SDK, water it with marketing and distribution, and fertilize it with cash. If third-party apps don't grow with that kind of support, nothing will.


nimbus said...

You have a way with words, which is why I keep coming back. Definitely one of my favorite, intelligent, and entertaining blogs on the net. Thanks for sticking around.

TinkerTenor said...

If they're gonna let AIM use the accelerometer, then maybe they could use it themselves in text messaging and email so the keyboard is bigger? Am I alone in this desire?

Carl Howe said...

Thanks for the kind comment and your tolerance as I get this blogging platform set up, Nimbus. It's always hard to change blogs.

To tinkertenor, that's a cool idea, but I'm not sure I understand how the accelerometer use would make the keyboard bigger. Perhaps by assigning accelerometer gestures to keys or words?

Thanks for reading!


Anders said...

Why do apps have to be registered with Apple instead of free and clear like apps are in OS X? In other words, why can't I develop an app and sync it to my iPhone and give it to my friends without involving Apple? The only answer I can come up with is that Apple wanted to keep the reigns on security, battery usage and keep developers from making an application that would cut into the carrier's voice profits. For example what if Skype ported their mobile client to the iPhone? Skype in and out minutes would be Skype's revenue and not AT&T's. What other reasons would Apple have for not making a totally free and clear SDK?

IMHO, this is why the Android SDK is more attractive than the iPhone. I don't like Apple's long term prospects against Android because of this. I don't know, am I off base on this?

Carl Howe said...

Just as businesses wanted the "wipe the iPhone of my data" button, Apple wants the "wipe the iPhone platform of bad apps" button too.Given Apple's push into the business market, I think Apple doesn't want the platform to go entirely wild west and end up having it banned from corporations because there's too much porn or there's too much risk of leaking corporate secrets. It also doesn't want people who want to bring the platform down writing malware for it that drains the battery, creates viruses, or otherwise will hurt the iPhone brand and acceptance.

The NYTimes today nailed it, I think.

"Think of Apple as the Singapore of the technology world. It is impeccably clean, very functional, supportive of capitalism — and ruthless with miscreants."

Regarding Skype, Apple doesn't have a problem with that if it uses WiFi. Steve did say, though, that it won't permit EDGE-based VOIP apps. In fact, there's a pretty cool slide from the Q&A that notes the restrictions here.

KC said...

I'm quite sure you didn't read the Q&A where Steve said they would NOT stop any VOIP apps, as long as it used wifi and not the cell network. So, skype revenue would belong to eBay and not AT&T. What other reasons do you have to doubt Apple, when your own example is CLEARLY wrong?

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