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Thousands of new iPhone programs? Maybe so

Apple Unveils iPhone Software Developers Kit
Scott Forstall, vice president of iPhone software, helped introduced a software developers kit March 6 which enables third-party software developers to create programs for the iPhone.David Paul Morris / Getty Images

I’ve written about our dog MacKenzie before because of the “Mac” in her name, as well as the fact that she’s one awesome Australian Shepherd.

She’s been asking for an iPhone since last June, when it came out. I’ve told her I’m pretty happy with my Treo 700p, but someday hope to have an iPhone.

Among the reasons I’ve stayed with the Treo are some of the third-party software programs I run on it, including DateBk6 by Pimlico Software. It’s a must-have for people like me who are obsessive-compulsive calendar keepers.

Apple said March 12 that more than 100,000 software developers have downloaded the iPhone software development kit since it was announced last week.

That doesn’t mean there will be 100,000 new programs for the iPhone in June, when the phone’s 2.0 software is scheduled for release. But maybe there will be. The kit will enable third-party software programs approved by Apple to run on the iPhone.

"The iPhone is a development platform is that very open," said Charlene Li, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Aside from the physical limitations of the phone's screen size and current Internet connectivity speed, "the biggest constraint will be people's creativity and imagination," she said.

I started using DateBk in 1999 on a Palm, and stayed with it as I updated to newer models, and ultimately migrated to the Treo, which is made by Palm.

I e-mailed C.E. Steuart Dewar of Pimlico Software, to ask him if he’s considering an iPhone version.

“Yes, you and many others” have posed the same question, he responded by e-mail.

“The problem is that among the curious are some competitors that have also figured it would be useful to know what my future strategy is. So, I have to decline releasing any information at this time.”

Dewar said that the iPhone “is obviously interesting,” and that he is one of the 100,000 who downloaded the SDK to look at it.

“It’s not a trivial task to move a huge application like DateBk6 onto that platform,” he wrote, but added that doesn’t mean he’s ruled it out.

Think social networking
Apple wants to grow its share of the iPhone’s business market, and is taking a huge step in that direction by incorporating Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync software into the free, 2.0 iPhone software upgrade. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

ActiveSync synchronizes a device, such as a BlackBerry or Treo, with a PC for e-mail, calendar and contact info.

But what kinds of programs will be most in demand by consumers who bought the iPhone for their personal use?

Think social networking, and programs that offer “shortcuts to things you normally do,” said Li of Forrester.

For example, “One of the applications that hasn’t been developed yet is related to shopping,” she said.

“When people are out shopping now, they’ll call their friends and say, ‘What should I get — the blue one or the green one?’ and they’ll take a picture with their phone and send it to their friends using SMS,” text messaging.

Li envisions an iPhone program that would do not only that, but put the what-to-buy question and photo out to a network of friends on a social networking site.

Or, “you could watch a video at the same time as a friend, and be able to talk about it instantaneously by voice,” she said.

The topic of video leads to Flash, a video program that now is not part of the iPhone, but may be in the future.

“Adobe Flash is a very important product, but as you know, Steve Jobs made some comments about it where he felt that a full version of Flash just could not run on the iPhone,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies market analysts.

“And he felt that Flash Lite (for mobile devices) is too minimal of an application for his platform. So he’s suggesting that Adobe create a version of Flash for the middle-of-the-pack.”

IM’ing and games
In a two-week period, America Online said it developed a version of its popular instant messaging program, AIM, for the iPhone and unveiled it at Apple’s Software Development Kit announcement in Cupertino, Calif.

Expect that IM program and others to be on the iPhone offerings list in June.

“Now that the Yahoos and Googles of the world have an SDK, they can create their own IM link, as well,” said Bajarin.

“These types of social applications are what we expect to see be really popular on the iPhone side, given that it’s a potentially social/media-centric device,” said Chris Silva, Forrester analyst for mobile infrastructure.

Games between iPhone users also will be of big interest, especially because of the phone’s “accelerometer,” built-in sensors that detect motion, such as when the user rotates the phone from portrait to landscape mode.

The potential, Li said, is “to be able to play games with each other, and take advantage of the motion-specific aspects of the iPhone’s accelerometer, which can tell whether the phone is being tilted, held on its side or upside down.”

There may or may not be an iPhone DateBk6 (or 7) program for the iPhone in my future.

But one thing’s for sure, says Bajarin: “When the iPhone came out, it was really looked at as a phone in the class of smartphones, It was in the realm of things like Windows Mobile and Palm devices. What Apple showed us at the Software Development Kit launch is that this is much more than a phone. This is a personal computer in your pocket.”