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FAQ: What iPhone 2.0 means to you

The gadget meets Exchange, and developers get a green light

March 9, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The iPhone has always been an unusual product in the Apple Inc. lineup. Apple announced the iPhone months before the device went on sale, something the Cupertino, Calif. company never does.

Then Apple cut the iPhone's price by a third just two months after it launched. Apple isn't exactly famous for cutting prices.

And last week, the company spilled the beans on new iPhone enterprise functionality and rolled out the tools independent software developers need to write third-party applications for Apple's hardware. And it's running well-publicized beta tests for both. Apple doesn't do big public betas.

That makes iPhone 2.0 -- the term CEO Steve Jobs used to describe the update coming this summer that will expand the iPhone's skill set -- an interesting story all by itself. Add to the mix the iPhone's first serious foray into corporate territory and the beginning of what will probably become another Apple development platform, and that story has far-reaching implications.

The story will play out for months, but we wanted answers to a few questions right off.

What exactly is iPhone 2.0? Jobs and his executives unveiled a pair of projects that together make up the update they dubbed iPhone 2.0. The first is support for Exchange, the Microsoft Corp. mail server that rules the corporate messaging roost. The second is the previously-announced software developer's kit, or SDK -- the tools and documentation that developers will need to craft applications that will run on the iPhone.

The first, Exchange support, is a big deal, but it appeals to a subset of iPhone owners. With Apple's emphasis on the consumer market -- and its less-than-stellar reputation among old-school enterprise IT -- not every iPhone customer will care whether the device can grab e-mail from a server at headquarters.

The second, however, will affect everyone who has or plans to buy an iPhone, because everyone buys software or downloads free software.

As it stands, the iPhone is like a computer that runs only the software built into the operating system or bundled with the machine. The SDK will make it possible for third-party developers and software companies to create new applications, making the iPhone even more computer-like in its functional flexibility.

The developer tools that make up the SDK won't actually be part of the Phone 2.0 update, but they may lead to programs that will go on sale or be offered gratis when that update reaches users.

When do I get the new iPhone software? "Late June," said Jobs. Knowing Apple's taste for the dramatic, we've circled June 27 as the most likely release date. That's the final Friday of the month and the one closest to the one-year anniversary of the iPhone's 2007 debut, which also took place on a Friday.

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