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Analysis: iPhone SDK release offers big potential for users, developers

If you think the iPhone is popular now, just wait

By Seth Weintraub
March 7, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Today's iPhone software development kit (SDK) announcement by Apple Inc. — long anticipated and long overdue — is big news for iPhone (and iPod Touch) users. Sure, there's a hitch: Just like last year, when Apple unveiled the iPhone in January and then made would-be buyers wait six months to get their hands on it, everyone will have to wait until June for all the promised applications and advances to arrive.

But it will be well worth the wait.

When the one-year anniversary of iPhone 1.0 rolls around this summer, iPhone fans will get what is essentially Version 2.0 of their favorite smart phone. The added features and apps expected then — some of which were showcased by Apple today — will transform the iPhone far beyond what it has been so far.

Here's a look at just what that will be like.

First, the upgrade to iPhone 2.0 — I'm calling it that, not Apple — means you can forget about those beloved hacked applications you now use. Without an SDK, developers for months now have had to cobble together all kinds of workarounds to get innovative programs running on the iPhone. (I'm talking about software like VNSea, the eBook reader, iRadio and that cool Guitar application.) That will change with the coming 2.0 upgrade, which will open new doors for developers, even as it kills access to the iPhone through the needed by those hacks. So start agitating now to get developers to port your favorite jailbroken applications to the new App Store, Apple's planned distribution system for iPhone applications. Hopefully, they'll hear your pleas and make those heretofore hacked apps available at a reasonable price.

The App Store, which will allow iPhone owners to buy and download programs directly to their phones, should put a slew of jazzy new applications at users' fingertips, further expanding the phone's uses and reach. Who hasn't wanted to send instant messages to friends directly from the iPhone without having to go through a complicated Web-based IM system? And who hasn't toyed with the prospect of Slingbox on an iPhone or iPod Touch? With the SDK, those possibilities suddenly become much more plausible. In fact, Apple showed off an AOL chat program during Thursday's announcement, along with games that can be controlled using the iPhone's accelerometer. (That's what flips photos and Web pages when the phone is rotated from the vertical to the horizontal.)

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