You might have noticed that Apple released an SDK for the iPhone, which will allow developers to create native applications for it. Given all our recent talk about native apps vs. web apps, it’s worth mentioning (doubly so as Apple is going a different way than other platform makers by not supporting Flash on the iPhone).
It appears that the iPhone’s AppStore will be a nice attempt to solve the discovery/download/installation problems that hurt the mobile app business. But is that enough? The addressable market of iPhone owners pales in comparison to other smartphone platforms — and, of course, Java. And is there any reason to believe that iPhone owners will be more apt to buy applications for their devices than other mobile users?
A few more limitations: if you want to develop iPhone apps, hopefully you’re in the US, and on a Mac. Otherwise you’re SOL for the time being. And as Russell Beattie points out, developers must move to an even more restrictive distribution environment: it’s Apple’s way, or the highway. Is that any better than a carrier-dominated environment that has some possibilities for off-deck sales and distribution?
This situation makes me think of the software environments for both the Mac and Palm. On the Mac, you’ve got tons of niche applications available for sale, and certainly there are some small developers making decent money from them. Same with Palm, back in the day. But only so many people are willing to pay for a steam calculator or expense tracker or whatever. I imagine the same thing will happen here. but it’s starting from such a small base, it’s hard to see this really being much of game-changer, even with the $100 million iFund. It’s just another fragmented platform that doesn’t have much market share going for it.
And about the iPhone’s new “enterprise support”: it takes a hell of a lot more than support for Exchange push email to make the iPhone a BlackBerry competitor for the enterprise, let along a BlackBerry killer.