Today in Apple history: Devs get the key to unlock iPhone’s awesome power


March 6: Today in Apple history: Devs get the key to unlock iPhone's awesome powerMarch 6, 2008: Apple releases the iPhone software development kit, finally allowing devs to start creating native mobile apps for the new smartphone.

When the App Store eventually opens a few months later, a new industry springs up overnight as third-party devs rush to take advantage of Apple’s lucrative distribution network.

Birth of the App Store

From the moment Apple announced the iPhone, developers prayed for an SDK. At first, debates raged inside Apple about whether an App Store made sense. Some thought the moved risked watering down Apple’s level of control, potentially allowing low-quality software on iPhones.

The main person against the initiative? Steve Jobs.

Others, such as Phil Schiller and Apple board member Art Levinson, lobbied Jobs to change his position and make the iPhone a generative platform rather than keeping it locked down.

Eventually, Jobs changed his mind. On March 6, 2008 — around nine months after the iPhone’s big reveal — Apple hosted an iPhone Software Roadmap event. Here the company announced the iPhone SDK, which became the basis of the iPhone Developer Program.

“We’re excited about creating a vibrant third-party developer community with potentially thousands of native applications for iPhone and iPod touch,” Jobs said.

iPhone SDK: The key to building iPhone apps

Applications for the iPhone had to be built on Macs, running a new version of Apple’s integrated development environment, Xcode.

Other software allowed developers to design iPhone-friendly interfaces, monitor iPhone memory usage, and even simulate the iPhone on their Macs. A particularly useful tool called Simulator let them mimic the iPhone’s touch interactions with a mouse or keyboard.

Developers who wanted to launch apps on the iPhone paid a standard $99 annual fee. (A higher-priced enterprise tier was initially available only to companies with more than 500 employees.) Developers, Apple said, would receive 70 percent of the sales revenue from their apps — with Cupertino taking the other 30 percent.

By the time the App Store opened in June 2008, 500 third-party apps were available, with 25 percent of them being free to download.

It was a monumental step in iPhone history, and a big driver of growth for the product.

Were you an early developer for the iPhone? What was the first app you downloaded? Leave your comments below.

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