WWDC: With iPhone 2.0, the SDK is now the key element

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs began his keynote at WWDC at Moscone Center in San Fransisco, with a discussion on the new firmware for iPhones, complete with enterprise support, the final release of the SDK, and new end-user features.

To a packed hall, Jobs said that the iPhone 2.0 beta program has been a huge success: In the 95 days since the SDK was first released, it has been downloaded some 250,000 times. About 25,000 applied for the beta, however Apple only accepted 4,000 of them.

"Developer reaction to the features, power and simplicity of the iPhone SDK has been incredible," marketing chieft Philip Schiller said. "We are seeing some truly amazing native apps from our developers and think users are going to love the breadth and depth of the applications available from the App Store."

Jobs said 35% of Fortune 500 companies had the SDK during the development phase across a wide variety of industries. Much of what was said early on was a repeat of what was covered during Apple's March 6 event, although obviously to a much bigger -- and less press-centric -- audience.

Former US Vice President Al Gore was notably in the audience this morning - he is currently a major Apple shareholder and a member of its board.

Developers were then invited to the stage to show off their applications. Sega showed off its Super Monkey game that was first shown at the press event, now with over 100 levels, while eBay demoed its own native iPhone application.

Social networking software company Loopt showed off a port of its application for iPhones. Already available through Sprint and Boost Mobile (and "coming soon" to Verizon since March), the service allows users to locate friends via pins on a map.

The march of high-profile developers continued, including blogging service TypePad and The Associated Press. Better yet, save for the Sega title, many of the demoed applications will be free from the App Store.

Apple said that the biggest request from developers has been background support, where applications can run in the background even though the user does not have them open. Up until this point, Apple said it would not allow non-native apps to do so.

The company will stick to that. However, Apple would provide a push notification service to all developers which would push updates from the developer's server to Apple, and from there to the iPhone. That functionality is planned to be released in September.

Moving back to the consumer, Jobs rattled off an impressive list of new features headed to the device with the 2.0 firmware. Among them:

- contact searching
- iWork/Microsoft Office document support
- bulk delete and move
- saving of images from e-mail
- scientific calculator
- parental control functions
- expanded language support

The software is expected to be released in early July at no cost to iPhone users, and $9.95 for iPod touch owners.

AR Communications senior vice president Carmi Levy says Monday's news might not be the end of it, however. "I'd expect to see Apple follow up this spring's announcement of an SDK and Microsoft Exchange interoperability with actual shipping solutions that business buyers can take advantage of now," he told BetaNews.

"This needs to happen sooner rather than later."

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