Live blog: Apple SDK announcement

Mar 06, 2008
Journalists and others wait for the iPhone SDK event to begin. Image: Jon Fortt

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Apple (AAPL) this morning is announcing details about how it will open the iPhone and iPod touch to outside developers. The company has also promised new details about how enterprises can take advantage of the iPhone, putting it in more direct competition with Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry and Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Mobile devices.

The event has not yet begun.

Steve Jobs has taken the stage.<!-- more -->

He's sharing stats on the U.S. smartphone market. He says the iPhone has 28 percent of the market, second to RIM's 41 percent in the fourth quarter.

Now he's showing stats for mobile browser usage; the iPhone has 71 percent according to Net Applications.

Most of the announcements will be handled by Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall.

Schiller says he's going to talk about the enterprise. Schiller says Genentech has thousands of iPhones deployed. (The company's CEO is an Apple board member.) He shares a testimonial from an IT guy there who calls the iPhone a watershed event.

Bill Clebsch, CIO at Stanford, says the university is using hundreds of them, and has been inundated with requests for more.

Schiller says Apple has been listening to what enterprise customers want. They want push e-mail and calendar, and push contacts, he says. They also want Cisco (CSCO) IPsec VPN, certificates and identities, WPA2/802.1x, enforces security policies and device configuration, and the ability to remotely wipe an iPhone clean if it's lost or stolen. Schiller says Apple will do all of those things in the next release of the iPhone software.

"We are working with Microsoft and we have licensed the ActiveSync protocol," he says, so that iPhone can work directly with Exchange.

He's now explaining the difference between the old way of doing things and the new way. He's showing how Blackberry's service works, using a separate server. "It adds risk to reliability, as we've seen from time to time." Now he's praising Microsoft's method, which allows the iPhone to work directly with Exchange server.

This will work with the contacts, e-mail and calendar software that's already in the iPhone.

Now he's going to demo it.

He's picked up and iPhone. He's going into contacts, calendar and e-mail, and it's all empty. Now he's looking at settings, goes into mail settings, and looks at an Exchange account that's already set up. He turns on ActiveSync for contacts, mail and everything, and now he goes in and everything from the server has been pushed down to the phone.

Now he's going to show what it's like to use. He adds a new contact to the iPhone. A colleague, Bob Borchers, in the audience who is logged in to the Exchange server via a laptop says he sees the contact; he adds a phone number to the contact and seconds later it shows up on the iPhone. Borchers sends him an e-mail that also shows up.

Now Bob is remotely wiping out the data on the phone; it works. (Schiller points out that a person with the phone itself can't stop the process.)

Schiller says Apple has worked with Nike to test the iPhone in their enterprise environment with Exchange. Roland Paanakker, the CIO, calls it plug-and-play. Disney has been testing it too, Schiller says. The senior VP of IT there says they have hundreds of iPhone users already, and exect that number to grow with the latest software release that adds ActiveSync. Schiller calls it "the best mobile device ever in the enterprise."

Scott Forstall is now taking the stage to talk about the iPhone SDK.

First he's going to talk about web apps, the initial method developers have had to use for the iPhone. (Of course, some developers have hacked the system, "jailbreaking" iPhones to add native apps – but that's another story.)

Now he's talking about Facebook's web app for the iPhone, and Bank of America's. He says iPhone is already the most popular mobile device with Bank of America, and accounts for 25 percent of mobile banking through that company.

"Starting today, we're opening up the same APIs and tools that we use internally," he says. (That answers the question of whether this release will be delayed; it won't.)

He's talking about the architectural layers of OS X: Cocoa, Media, Core Services, and Core OS. He says Apple took Cocoa and created Cocoa Touch, a new framework for building apps.

Now he's going back to talk about the core OS, which is basically the same as full Mac OS X, with some memory optimization and power management additions. The Core OS manages power for the chips and every other function of the iPhone automatically.

In Core Services, everyone can get access to the address book, certain databases, and location information to create location-aware apps.

In the Media layer, there's the low-level audio and video capability from Mac OS X. There's also OpenAL, which is for rendering sounds and effects in three dimensions. Video playback and core animation are built in, too. (There are other features built into these layers; these are just the ones he's highlighting.) Open GL ES is the embedded version of OpenGL.

Cocoa Touch handles multitouch events and controls, the accelerometer, and more. He says this is also a full three-axis sensor that can be used in apps. (This could be big for games such as flight simulators or shooters.)

"We think we're years of any other platform for a mobile device," Forstall says.

(This is getting really wonky.)

Now he's talking about Xcode, which Apple uses to build applications and everything else for the iPhone. He's talking about how developers can use Xcode to build iPhone apps and manage the projects overall.

Now he's talking about Interface Builder, which can be used to create the interface for apps and tie the code in. (An Apple spokesperson just told me that I can't take pictures of the presentation in progress. Interesting.)

Instruments allows real-time performance analysis of apps. These were all running on Mac OS X, and were enhanced for the iPhone.

There's also the iPhone simulator, which runs on the Mac and lets you test performance. Now he's going to demo it. (It seems to work just like the iPhone touch interface.) He builds a simple app that simply displays the text "Hello World" on the simulated screen. Now he packages up the application and sends it to a real iPhone, and runs it. It works. Now he goes in and changes the text color to yellow, and shows how a single button click makes changes and send it to the phone.

Now he's demoing a "touch effects" app that lets you edit photos by distorting them with your fingers. He distorts one, and shows how you can undo the changes by shaking the phone to undo. It was less than 2,000 lines of code, and took two days.

Now he's showing a game Apple wrote in two weeks. It's got a spaceship. You can touch the screen to fire, and move the phone around to steer. (This elicits rousing applause from the audience.) It's fewer than 10,000 lines of code, he says.

He's now using Instruments to record how well the app is performing, and showing how developers can go in and debug an app using the tools.

He says not to take Apple's word for it – the company called in a couple of engineers from other companies to come in and work with the SDK. They're going to talk about the effectiveness of the tools.

Travis Boatman from Electronic Arts is taking the stage to talk about it. He says that given that EA had just two weeks, they chose a game called Spore that EA is developing, and did that on the iPhone. (This game already has a cult following in gamer circles.) EA is using the accelerometer on the phone to control a character, basically tilting the phone to steer. He says the accelerometer is really comfortable for controlling things. (I think a racing game or a shooter will probably be the truest test of this.)

Now Forstall is talking about Salesforce.com.

Chuck Dietrich from that company is coming up to talk about that company's experience with the iPhone. "This SDK is really powerful," Dietrich says. Salesforce chose a salesforce automation tool to port to the iPhone. He's showing charts and graphs that would let salespeople see graphically how they're performing against their goals. (This is potentially a killer app for the enterprise.) He shows how a salesperson might use the tools to figure out where to focus his efforts. A user can choose to pull new leads down onto the phone. (This is an important on-the-go feature.) This gets plenty of applause from the crowd. He says Salesforce.com had just one developer working on it for less than two weeks.

Now, AOL. Rizwan Sattar is coming up to talk about instant messaging. He's showing AIM for iPhone. The app has status messages and buddy icons. He says he had never written code for the Mac, and came to Apple with nothing but a spec sheet, and was able to get things going in five days. He's showing how it's easy to switch between active chats with a swipe of a finger. He's also showing how the app integrates with photos on the phone that can be used to swap buddy icons.

Next, Epocrates, which does clinical reference apps. Glenn Keighley is talking about the experience. He calls the iPhone development experience more powerful than other mobile development, because of Cocoa Touch. He called it "almost desktop-like." He's showing how they can display pill images on a mobile device, and how doctors can check to see whether drugs have adverse effects together. (It sure seems like this could be a killer app for doctors, if that can be said.) Rousing applause again.

Last, Sega. Ethan Einhorn is coming up to talk about Sega's experience. SuperMonkeyBall. They've got a demo going. The most important thing he's saying here: the accelerometer is good for game control. "It's going to be very hard for me to go back and play this on a regular game controller," Einhorn says. "This is not a cell phone game. This is a full console game." He says they had to fly in an extra artist to make the graphics look better, because they underestimated how good the iPhone could make things look.

Back to Steve Jobs.

He's talking about how people will actually get apps in front of iPhone users. (This is a big deal.) Apple has written an app called "The App Store" that will go onto iPhones with the next release of the software. "This is the way we're going to distribute apps to the iPhone."

It has a directory that lets you browse by category, few the most popular apps, or search for specific apps. You can wirelessly download via the cell network or WiFi. There's also a section in iTunes where you can browse apps, he said. But Apple thinks most people will use iPhones and do it over the air. The App Store will automatically tell users if the developer has updated an app.

"The App Store is going to be the exclusive way to distribute iPhone applications." He says "We think we've got a great business deal for developers." Apple will keep 30 percent of revenues from every app. Apple will host and take care of credit card fees. Developers keep 70 percent. Apple won't charge at all for apps that want to distribute free apps.

Limitations? Of course. No porn, so malicious apps, no apps that invade privacy. (By eliminating porn, Apple has created an interesting problem. Certain communities of people will continue trying to "jailbreak" the phone to get what they want.)

The software release will be out in beta release today, and the capabilities will be available to iPhone users in June through a software update. (So the SDK will be released as planned, but the business aspect of this doesn't start until June.) When the iPod touch gets this update in June, users of that device will have to pay for it.

To become an iPhone developer, you can go to Apple.com and download the SDK for free, and run the simulator. Join the developer program and you can run it on an iPhone or iPod touch. Joining the developer program costs $99. (Applause here, too.)

"That is our software roadmap, and we hope you are as excited about it as we are. … We do, though, have one last thing," Jobs says.

Jobs is bringing venture capitalist John Doerr to the stage. "We’re all here today because we love Apple products. And I'm here because I love Apple entrepreneurs," he says. He calls Jobs the "supreme commander" of the world's entrepreneurial rebels. He's talking about how Jobs "resurrected" Apple and created Pixar, calls Jobs "the world's greatest entrepreneur," and asks the audience to give him a round of applause.

"Today we are very proud to announce the iFund." He's talking about a funding bank from Kleiner Perkins, just for the iPhone. This VC firm is basically setting aside a bank of money to fund startups that build iPhone apps. "We decided the iFund should be $100 million," he says. "That should be enough to start a dozen Amazons, or even four Googles."

This is a pretty big deal – potentially putting the iPhone up there with Facebook in terms of breathless Silicon Valley venture capital jockeying. "It's bigger than the personal computer," he says. Matt Murphy will run the fund, he says. "If you want to invent the future, the iFund wants to help you build it," he says.

Wow. Huge.

Jobs is asking the press to stay put for a moment, but the event is over.

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