This June, iPhone’s going 2.0. Apple is adding a host of much-clamored-for features (mostly for enterprise users) in addition to, finally, official support for third-party software.
As with the Apple TV, the early adopters (all four million of them) won’t be left out of the fun — iPhone 2.0 is coming as a free software update and includes licensed ActiveSync support, 802.1x networking (a must at many colleges and businesses), and the App Store, where developers can list their programs at prices from $0 up. The message behind 2.0 is clear: iPhone is being evicted from its niche. Apple aims for it to be the mobile communicator of the future, King Smartphone, handed out by the thousands at the world’s largest corporations and purchased by any individual with the desire to stay connected.
Ever since it became clear that iPhone runs OS X, developers have been willing to try almost anything to write applications for it. Ignored was Steve Jobs’ insistence that sticking to web apps would provide sufficient development freedom while keeping the platform — and AT&T’s network — safe and stable. A toolchain was independently developed, an iPhone-based installer and update manager was put together, and development flourished.
The announcement that Apple would be releasing its own SDK, the same one that had been used internally to create the built-in apps, was welcome — if not a bit late. But, with full 3D graphics, the ability to remotely debug programs and record every detail of their performance, and the same Xcode programming environment that Mac devs know and love, what Apple revealed yesterday was impressive enough to establish iPhone as the most advanced mobile device platform out there.
The game developers which Apple brought in to test out the platform (for just two weeks!) had to treat it more like a gaming console than a phone, and Sega had to fly in an artist to revise graphics that, unexpectedly, weren’t of high enough quality. In the same two weeks, an AOL dev who had never worked on a Mac had produced an impressive, full-featured instant messaging client.
Everyone else has until June to produce whatever applications they can imagine before the App Store goes live. The turnout is going to be impressive.
Apple’s second, less-expected announcement is the addition of a host of enterprise features to iPhone. Email, calendars, and contacts will be kept synchronized in real-time directly with companies’ Exchange servers, and iPhones will be set up en masse through a set of specialized tools. Companies will be able to enforce passcode locks on employees’ iPhones and even remotely erase them, instantly, if they should be lost or stolen.
That featureset was, really, all that has until now stopped companies from adopting iPhone instead of Blackberry, Windows Mobile, or Palm. Apple has let Nike and Disney field test iPhone 2.0, and gave the sense that it was a great success.
Who knows? Maybe it wasn’t Apple’s computers that were destined to dominate the world, after all.