Yesterday Apple released their long-awaited iPhone SDK...sort of. For those who don't drink the Apple Kool-aid, Apple originally said that only web applications could be used to create iPhone applications. In October, after three months of unauthorized unlocking programs and hacks to install native iPhone applications, they reversed their decision and announced they would release a software development kit (SDK), so developers could write native code.
It seems their initial timeline was a bit ambitious, because they were targeting release in February and only were able to announce a beta SDK yesterday, but overall their offerings are really pleasing. The SDK seems just as full-featured as an OS SDK (which would explain the long-development time), but with the specific touch-implementations necessary for the unique iPhone user interface. This will blow mobile phone development out of the water, and be a huge win for Apple. It will also poise Apple to kill off the last few remaining devotees of the Palm. Two doctors I know have continued to carry their palms despite getting iPhones, specifically to use epocrates, a drug reference application that just happened to be demoed on the iPhone at the event yesterday.
One of the most intriguing developments was that Apple will be the exclusive clearinghouse of applications developed for the iPhone, using a newly created App Store to distribute developer's applications. It sounds like a great deal for developers, with Apple charging 30 percent of the purchase price to host, display, and transmit the applications to purchasers. However, we do like our freedom (especially developers), so I don't know how the community will react if a particular type of software isn't allowed in the App Store. I anticipate that for the majority of iPhone users out there who have never unlocked or hacked their phones, the App Store will give them much more than they need in the way of third-party software, and for all the more ambitious users, there will continue to be several simple ways to get more, um, questionable applications.
We talk a lot at AOL about getting into the mobile space, and we haven't done it super well. However, no one else has either. Until the iPhone, mobile phones could do one thing really well: allow you to talk to people. Yesterday Apple started (along with Android, perhaps) a revolution: the passing of the torch from the computer platform by the mobile platform, what Steve calls the post-PC device. I am excited to see what developers are going to create.
*Special thanks to my friend Ben Hood for contributing this article to SOMEWHAT FRANK. Ben is a huge Apple junkie and I appreciate his perspective on the latest news.