On Thursday, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone Software Roadmap. He began by mentioning that the iPhone is responsible for 71% of mobile web browser usage, and that the iPhone accounts for 28% of U.S. smartphone sales.

There are three major aspects to Thursday’s announcement. First is the release of the long-anticipated iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK). Second is the announcement of an iPhone 2.0 update, which is now in beta with developers and will be released to the public (for free to iPhone users) in June. Third is major iPhone support for popular (some would say essential) enterprise features. iPod Touch users will apparently also have access to many of the new applications.

The iPhone SDK is provided to developers to create applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It includes an emulator to test iPhone applications. A public SDK is a very big deal, because it means that many new applications will be created for the iPod touch and iPhone – making these devices more useful for consumers (and potentially essential for some professions).

The SDK will allow developers to create software that functions just like Apple’s iPhone-native applications. This includes full use of Multi-touch technology, the accelerometer, web use, the camera, and even localization.

Unfettered access is allowed to iPhones core OS X software, including Security, Bonjour, video, image support (JPG, PNG, TIFF), Core Audio (including recording), Address Book, SQLite, PDS Quartz, Core Animation, OpenGL, and Keychain.

Apple created some applications with the SDK, and also invited software developers to create apps for the event. These included an AIM IM client , Epocrates (pharmaceutical reference app), Salesforce.com, and SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball. EA’s demoed their game “Spore,” which allows you to control the evolution of a species (this will be one of the hot games of the year).

These new iPhone applications will be distributed via the new iTunes App Store, and includes wireless downloads.

Price is set by the developers, who retain 70% of revenue. Free applications are also expected to be released, in which case Apple won’t charge an iTunes delivery fee.

The SDK is free public download. There’s a $99 annual fee to publish apps through the iTunes App Store.

What this means: an explosion of awesome iPhone and iPod touch native apps, making these devices that much more appealing to the general public.

Interestingly, Apple won’t prohibit applications that use Voice over Internet (VOIP). In theory, this means the possibly of making “free” calls over a wifi connection.

Also, the venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has established a $100 million fund for iPhone entrepreneurs. It is called the “iFund.”


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