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Triple play puts iPhone ahead of Android

SDK, App Store, and the Holy phone

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Make no mistake, Apple's iPhone SDK is a big deal. Finally, developers can get serious about a device stealing the hearts and minds of business and consumer end users.

When I last wrote about the iPhone, I suggested that because there were a sufficient number of unanswered questions about key development parameters, the iPhone should probably be your second platform choice behind Google's Android.

With the combination of the SDK, online application marketplace and the phone, I'm no longer certain this is the best decision. Apple has demonstrated it understands end-to-end platform management. Hardware, software, accessories, instruction, distribution and, of course, monetization - lock, stock and two smoking barrels.

There's a decent overview of the SDK, released last week, at Endgadget so I won't waste too much ink here. I'll give you the big, moving parts instead.

First some stats: the iPhone has 28 per cent of the smartphone market share compared with primary competitor RIM at 41 per cent, according to Canalys. The iPhone, though, with its superior browsing capability represented 71 per cent of all mobile internet usage in the category.

There are now more than 1,000 web applications that have been developed for the platform. Keep in mind that the iPhone hasn't even been on the market for a year. If nothing else, this is a strong indicator of just how excited developers are about it and how much demand there appears to be for software that runs on Apple's handset.

At the enterprise level, too, demand is high. Apple has committed to providing a whole suite of enterprise services backed by a new architecture specifically for the iPhone and it's licensed Microsoft's ActiveSync to pull it all together seamlessly. The features Apple has pushed out appear to make the iPhone a most capable device for the enterprise - if only it would sort out cut and paste!

The development environment is sure to excite - especially if you like working with Mac development tools. Third-party developers will be able to build native apps using the exact same SDK as Apple developers.

Apple layer cake

There are four development layers: the core operating system, core services, media layer, and Cocoa Touch. There are multiple APIs for each layer providing the developer an exquisite degree of control over virtually every physical aspect of the device - including power management, sound, camera, location awareness and, of course, user interface.

This is complimented by a robust set of tools including a source editor, a remote debugger, an advanced device emulator that runs on your Mac, and there's the added ability to test applications in the real world on your iPhone using either the mobile or a Wi-Fi network.

Most development is done using Apple's xCode that has been updated for the iPhone, although there are also specific tools such as the interface builder that makes it faster and easier to build UI components.

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