Apple is opening its SDK to let developers build a wider range of applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
CUPERTINO, Calif.-Apple unveiled plans on March 6 to enable the iPhone to support the Microsoft Exchange Web e-mail client and to provide new features that have been demanded most by business users.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and senior executives briefed journalists and independent software developers at company headquarters here about the company's plans to open the iPhone SDK (software development kit) by June to support the development of enterprise-grade applications.
This move will allow third parties to create "first class" and native applications, not just Web 2.0-style ones, Apple officials said. They also unveiled how the iPhone and iPod Touch will support the features most demanded by enterprises.
Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said that these top 10 features are push e-mail; push calendar; push contacts; global address list; support for Cisco IPsec Virtual Private Network, certificates and identities; the WPA 2/802.1x security standard; enforced security policies; mass device configuration; and remote wipe.
Schiller said that with the next revision of iPhone and iPod Touch system software-Version 2.0 is due in June-all these features will be native to the devices.
In addition, Schiller said the iPhone will gain "native" support for Microsoft Exchange by licensing the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol, Schiller said. He said the "old way" of working with Exchange, where devices link to NOCs, then with a message server, then with the Exchange server, was complicated and less reliable. In contrast, the iPhone will work directly, through firewalls, with the Exchange server.
All Exchange features will integrate into the iPhone's native mail, calendar and contact applications. Already, the iPhone can work with multiple e-mail accounts. An Exchange mail account will be just one more.
Scott Forestall, Apple's vice president of platform experience, introduced the iPhone SDK and outlined for the first time the iPhone OS structure. It matches the Mac OS X underpinnings of Core OS, Core Services and Media. But instead of using Mac OS X's Cocoa user interface layer, it has Cocoa Touch, the multi-touch aware user interface API developed for the iPhone.
Using Apple's existing Xcode, Interface Builder, Instruments and the new iPhone Simulator (which creates a "live" iPhone on a Mac), Forestall said that developers could quickly build, test and optimize their applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Developers from Electronic Arts, Salesforce.com, AOL, Epocrates and Sega all showed live demos of applications they had built in "two weeks with one or two developers." These included versions of EA's Spore, AOL AIM and Salesforce.com's sales tools.
All these applications, Jobs said, will be available to download directly to iPhones and iPod Touches through the "App Store" application, or via iTunes.
He said that developers will be able to set their own prices; Apple will take 30 percent of the sales cost, with no credit card or other fees, leaving 70 percent for the developers. Applications that developers want to distribute for free will remain free, he said-no extra charges.
The iPhone 2.0 update will be available in June. It will be free for iPhones, with a "nominal charge" for iPod Touches.