Enterprise App Developers Gear Up for iPhone SDK

Developers working on business apps for the Apple iPhone are starting to look at what they can do with the iPhone SDK.

With the blogosphere rife with speculation about a third-generation Apple iPhone slated for June, application developers are dealing with the realities of how to get the most out of the next version of the popular device's software development kit.

Apple showed off the first publicly available version of the iPhone SDK on March 6, and developers are getting their feet wet.

The company outlined the enterprise-friendly features of the SDK, the included development tools and Apple's plan to help third parties distribute their applications. The iPhone 2.0 operating system update for users, Apple said, will be available in June at no charge.

Prior to the announcement of the iPhone SDK and its enterprise features, such as increased security and Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync support, a variety of companies offered their own software that could provide various features that would appeal to enterprises. But rather than seeing Apple's addition of similar features as competition, many of these companies are welcoming the chance to partner with Apple on the iPhone platform.

Some companies haven't waited for the SDK's arrival before getting to work on business applications. Mir3, for example, develops software in the "Intelligent Notification" market to provide immediate messaging applications and services for large companies.

Prior to March 6, Mir3 had "already effectively designed a business application for the iPhone that essentially turns it into an urgent message delivery device, increasing the iPhone's value for enterprise users that need to communicate mission-critical information," said Frank Mahdavi, the company's chief strategy officer.

"Mir3 provides multimodal messaging using its hosted e-mail system and is therefore not impacted by the iPhone's upcoming Exchange support," Mahdavi said. "It was expected that either Apple or a third-party vendor would provide [Exchange] support if iPhone [were] to penetrate the enterprise market," he said, and the company "was betting on iPhone evolving to be an enterprise device when we originally announced our support of the platform."

Mahdavi said his company had signed up for the SDK program, although, "our current iPhone offering is a Web-based solution that provides our intended functionality under Apple's Safari browser."

"The SDK is a bit of a nonevent for us right now," said Nigel Spicer, co-founder, president and chief operating officer of 1stWorks. "We are a Windows shop who built a Web application for the iPhone to deliver remote control. ... [1stWorks] built our interface to the iPhone and the iPod touch on the Safari browser foundation and its Canvas attributes."

He continued, "What [the iPhone operating system] 2.0 brings to that platform is better and tighter security, which makes our security even stronger for those customers or enterprises using it."

Spicer also said, "For us, working with Apple has been an arms'-length process; there is a number to call, but generally we have just figured things out as they arise."

Similarly, Sybase director of product management for mobile collaboration products Senthil Krishnapillai said the release of the iPhone SDK and iPhone 2.0 plans "does not really impact our plans" for iAnywhere mobile technologies.

"In a way, ActiveSync validates the enterprise viability of iPhone," Krishnapillai said. "There will be some companies already using ActiveSync that may chose to deploy iPhone as well, but our target market is medium and large enterprises who have a more holistic approach to mobility than viewing it as an e-mail-only solution. Also, ActiveSync deployment may not be suitable for large enterprises that have stringent security policies with dual-firewall infrastructures. With the SDK available, our plans are to enhance our offering with more features."

Asked if Apple's SDK would affect the direction Sybase takes with iAnywhere, Krishnapillai said, "We are currently looking at the SDK and our goal is add more of these services for iPhone if it is viable."

Krishnapillai said the current version of iAnywhere is the mobile e-mail portion of Sybase's Information Anywhere suite and is not based on the iPhone SDK. "It uses a combination of IMAP client protocol of the native iPhone e-mail client to provide e-mail synchronization along with a Web-browser-based approach for corporate directory and personal contact lookup," he said.

"We have started looking into the SDK," he added. "It looks very promising and will suit what we are looking for. Unfortunately, we cannot go into the details, as we are restricted by NDA [nondisclosure agreement] from Apple until it ships in June."