Last week's announcement of the iPhone software development kit may be one of the most significant events of the year - Adam and Glenn look at what Apple said and how software developers responded. The iPhone SDK is just the latest in a string of successes for Apple that catapulted the company to the top of Fortune Magazine's list of Most Admired Companies. One area that Apple has ignored, however, is the nascent ebook reader market, despite having the best platform in the iPod touch and the best online retail experience in the iTunes Store. In an open letter to Steve Jobs, Adam lays out the case for why Apple should enter this market. In the world of updates, we look at Aperture 2.0.1, which adds support for AppleScript, and "Take Control of Customizing Leopard" 1.1, which adds coverage of changes in the Mac OS X 10.5.2 update. Last, but by no means least, Rich Mogull takes a break from computer security to wire his house for audio using Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil and, well, no wires.
Apple took home top honors in Fortune Magazine's list of most admired companies in the United States and in the world, along with an overall top ranking for innovation.Show full article
Fortune Magazine has put Apple at the top of its America's Most Admired Companies list, ahead of Google (#4) and Microsoft (#16). (Apple also topped the Global Top 20 list, which included companies from other countries.) The list ranks companies on innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, and quality of products/services. In the Computers category (which includes hardware manufacturers like IBM, HP, and Dell), Apple ranked first in innovation, people management, and quality of products/services, fifth in social responsibility, and third in the other attributes. More impressive was that Apple took the top ranking in innovation in the entire survey, beating out firms like Nike, Herman Miller, and Walt Disney.
Also be sure to check out Fortune's extended coverage of Apple, including Betsy Morris's "What Makes Apple Golden" and Peter Elkind's lengthy "The Trouble with Steve Jobs." The latter piece focuses on Jobs's bout with pancreatic cancer and the options backdating scandal, covering both in a level of detail I hadn't previously seen.
by Jeff Carlson
In addition to providing the usual complement of bug fixes and performance enhancements typical of a maintenance update, Aperture 2.0.1 adds enhanced AppleScript functionality to the professional photo organizer and editor.Show full article
Maintenance updates generally don't offer much more than bug fixes, which makes last week's release of Aperture 2.0.1 stand out. The update provides an array of performance and stability improvements (called out by category, though, without specifics of what was changed), and Apple also rolled in enhanced AppleScript support.
A page in the AppleScript section of the company's Web site demonstrates how a page layout program such as Adobe InDesign CS3 can fetch an image directly from the Aperture library, using the photo's generated preview within the InDesign document. When the image is edited in Aperture, the changes are reflected in InDesign without re-importing the new version. A video explains fingerprinted previews, the new method that Aperture uses to keep its previews and source files linked together using unique identifying codes.
(Incidentally, the two videos on that page use Apple's Victoria text-to-speech voice for the narration instead of a human voiceover, a practice I've not noticed before. It took a few seconds to pick out what was "wrong" - the occasional clipped words and odd pronunciations that indicated an artificial voice.)
Aperture 2.0.1 is available via Software Update or as a 43.9 MB standalone download (a valid serial number is required to download the latter version).
Apple has made some significant changes in updating to 10.5.2, and Matt Neuburg is all over them in a free update to his latest ebook, "Take Control of Customizing Leopard."Show full article
We just released a new 1.1 version of Matt Neuburg's "Take Control of Customizing Leopard," which adds several important pieces of information for working with new options in Mac OS X 10.5.2, including how to toggle menu bar translucency and the reflective Dock, and how to take control of your stacks. It also integrates discussion of new aspects of the Time Machine interface and includes a few bits of advice - like how to put the Finder in all your spaces - that have come to light as we've worked with the shipping version of Leopard. If you're interested in learning more about customizing the latest version of Leopard, pick up a copy today.
We are especially happy about this release - free to those who own the 1.0 version - because had we created it as a traditional printed book, thousands of obsolete copies would be sitting on reader and bookstore shelves all over the world, and we'd have no elegant way to update those books to cover Leopard's changes. Those of you who already own the 1.0 version can download the update by clicking the Check for Updates link in the upper right corner of the first page.
by Rich Mogull
Apple's AirPort Express is great for when you want to send music to your stereo wirelessly, but what if the source of your music isn't iTunes? Or if you want to send the audio to a Mac or PC? Enter Rogue Amoeba's AirFoil 3.1. Rich Mogull gives a real-world look at what it's good for in this review.Show full article
As a user and reviewer of software it's rare to find an application that focuses entirely on performing a single task, and performing it well. All too often our software bloats with unnecessary features and options to appeal to a wide audience, increasing complexity and hogging valuable system resources. Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil 3.1 is that rare program that takes a complex task, makes it drop-dead simple, and includes only what's absolutely necessary. Airfoil is a near-perfect application that's razor sharp in its focus, and Zen-like in its simplicity.
One of the more unusual features of Apple's AirPort Express Base Station is AirTunes, a protocol that enables any computer running iTunes to stream music to an AirPort Express connected to a stereo. When it was first released, AirTunes worked only with iTunes and supported only a single AirPort Express at a time. Many users, myself included, immediately saw the potential to use the relatively inexpensive AirPort Express to stream synchronized music throughout our homes, replicating the functionality of whole-home audio systems that cost thousands of dollars.
Airfoil was born out of the demand for a critical missing feature in AirTunes: the capability to stream from applications other than iTunes. The first version did just that - it brought AirTunes-like streaming to other applications. Version 2 then closed the gap on another valuable feature - the capability to stream to multiple base stations at once. Although Apple later added support for multiple device streaming, AirTunes is still limited to iTunes and still supports streaming only to the AirPort Express or Apple TV. With the current Airfoil 3.1, Rogue Amoeba has extended beyond just the AirPort Express, making it possible to stream synchronized audio to Macs and PCs (using client software) along with Apple TVs, and AirPort Express base stations.
I was an early adopter of Airfoil 3.1, but rather than rehashing the straight reviews (like Macworld's excellent coverage) I'll walk through the features as I describe how I use Airfoil here in my home. It's one of those applications I use on a daily basis and find indispensable. In fact, I've designed my entire home audio setup around it.
I originally purchased an AirPort Express to use as a wireless access point when I travel and to stream music from iTunes to our stereo. I've been a subscriber to XM Radio for a while, and the desire to stream XM audio drove me to purchase Airfoil 1.0 initially. I connected my XM radio to a Mac mini through an iMic USB audio adapter by Griffin Technologies, and used a free application also by Rogue Amoeba called LineIn to output the audio to Airfoil, and thus to my AirPort Express connected to the stereo in our living room.
The configuration worked well, but was hobbled by a few limitations. First, although Airfoil could also output audio locally, it wasn't synchronized with the remote speakers. Local audio would play just a second or so before the remote speakers. Normally this wasn't a problem, but if we were entertaining I had to make sure I turned down the volume on the Mac mini or it would annoy anyone walking down the hall past that room. The setup also required an AirPort Express for every location where we wanted audio. Ideally I wanted to stick the Mac mini in a closet and stream to whatever Mac I was working on at the time, connected to desktop speakers, and just output it with the rest of my system audio. I work at home and like being able to control mute and volume from my keyboard. When we later added a second AirPort Express, I also noticed a tendency for dropped connections and audio to drop out of sync.
I enhanced my basic setup with a little simple programming. Airfoil supports AppleScript, and I was able to make a Web page on the Mac mini that would execute an AppleScript that let me switch audio sources and toggle streaming to each AirPort Express. If a connection dropped I could reset it by going to that Web page from any browser in the house (including my Sony PSP).
Airfoil 3.0 solved nearly every problem in the previous versions and added significant functionality. It improved synchronization, which also seemed to improve connectivity. I have yet to notice any synchronization issues between multiple AirPort Express units, and connections seem more stable. Version 3.0 also added full synchronization of local audio with the remote speakers so the audio from my Mac mini synced perfectly with the streaming audio.
The most exciting feature of 3.0 was the addition of Airfoil Speakers - a standalone client application running on a Mac or PC to accept audio streamed from Airfoil. Before the introduction of this feature I was unable to include my desktop speakers in my home audio setup. It seemed silly to purchase another AirPort Express just to stream audio from my closet to the laptop five feet away, and I found myself sticking the XM radio on my desk during the workday, and connecting it to the Mac mini if I wanted to stream it to the rest of the house. With Airfoil Speakers I now stream XM right from the radio to my laptop, which is usually connected to a pair of desktop speakers (although XM offers online streaming, the quality is materially lower).
Another welcome feature, available since version 2.0, is support for automatic connections. In the Airfoil preferences you can designate targets to connect to automatically. This has reduced the need for my custom Web page, since Airfoil now automatically connects on launch when my laptop or AirPort Express units are on the network.
One last feature I haven't used much is remote audio streaming of video content. Due to the delay of sending audio wirelessly, it's difficult to keep the audio and video from a DVD or other source synchronized. (In fact, iTunes won't stream the audio for a video to an AirPort Express, presumably for this reason.) To work around this problem, Airfoil now includes its own video player. While you can't use the default DVD Player, the embedded player supports all major video formats.
But Rogue Amoeba didn't stop there. Soon after the release of Airfoil 3.0 they released version 3.1, which added support for streaming to Apple TV. If you use an Apple TV, you no longer need to stuff an AirPort Express behind your stereo rack. Sure, the Apple TV also plays iTunes audio, but now you can synchronize that across multiple rooms.
I hate to admit this, but when we had a new house built last summer I designed our wiring around Airfoil and AirPort Express units. Rather than a whole home system, we just put ceiling speakers in our living/dining room and on the outside patio, wired to the entertainment nook in our family room. We skipped extra wiring to the upstairs or bedrooms, knowing we could just add AirPort Express units if we wanted. We use one AirPort in the family room to cover all the downstairs speakers, and one upstairs in our bar area connected to a small shelf stereo system. I have some home automation software that includes a Web interface for iTunes (Indigo by Perceptive Automation), that, combined with my own AppleScripts, lets me change sources and choose songs through my iPhone or any other Web browser. For the cost of a Mac mini (a really old one), two AirPort Express base stations, some cheap in-ceiling speakers, and Airfoil 3.1, our guests are treated to perfectly synchronized, whole-home audio that I can control from my phone. How cool is that?
Airfoil is also filled with those little touches that really polish an application. The software itself is simple and respectful of screen space, and can be hidden in the menu bar. The icons for each output device or computer represent the nature of that system; a PC icon for a PC, laptop and desktop icons depending on the Mac, and different AirPort Express and Apple TV icons. You can control volume by output device or link everything to system audio, and it includes an equalizer and robust AppleScript support.
The only problem I've noticed is a lack of consistency with the automatic streaming feature. It will connect to all devices when Airfoil initially launches, but only reconnect to Airfoil Speakers devices as they come on and off the network through the day.
As for the future? It's no secret that with the release of the iPhone SDK, Rogue Amoeba is thinking about bringing audio streaming to your pocket. That might be enough to make me finally break down and get one of those overpriced iPhone docks with speakers for the bedroom.
Airfoil 3.1 is available as a free trial for Mac OS X and costs $25 for a full license, or a $10 to upgrade from a previous version. A version for Windows 2000/XP/Vista is also available.
Steve Jobs dismissed the Kindle by claiming that people don't read anymore, but that's just wrong (case in point, you're reading this now). Could Steve be aiming to soften up the market in advance of a tablet-sized iPod tweaked for reading? Adam makes the case for why we're reading more than ever and why Apple is the company to bring us the device that will finally fulfill the promise of the ebook reader.Show full article
Back in January, while talking with John Markoff and David Pogue of the New York Times after your Macworld Expo keynote, you expressed skepticism about the Amazon Kindle ebook reader. John Markoff quoted you as saying, "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."
That seems an odd thing to say to a pair of writers whose work is read by millions of people in newspaper and book form. I don't know where you got that 40 percent number, but other statistics would seem to disagree. For instance, the Book Industry Study Group, which has been tracking the U.S. publishing industry for 30 years, estimates that U.S. book sales in 2006 exceeded 3.1 billion copies, generating net revenues for U.S. publishers in excess of $35 billion. That's a 3.2 percent increase in revenues over 2005. The book industry is growing, not shrinking. And if 40 percent of the people in the U.S. are reading one book or less per year, the other 182 million of us must be averaging over 16 books per year.
Reading habits have undoubtedly changed, since we have more entertainment and research options available to us than ever before. Some of those come thanks to Apple products like the iPod and Apple TV, and Apple services like the iTunes Store. But the prime mover, according to an IDC study of consumer online behavior, is that Americans are now spending 32.7 hours per week online, almost twice as much as they spend watching TV (16.4 hours per week) and more than eight times as much as they spend reading newspapers and magazines (3.9 hours). If you want to point to an industry in trouble, look no further than newspapers, where circulation is in a steep decline.
The key point is that time spent online is largely time spent reading (and writing), whether email (57 billion messages sent in 2007 by IDC's estimate), blogs (over 70 million, with 1.5 million posts per day, according to Technorati), or more traditional online news and entertainment sources. People read more than they ever have, thanks to the Internet, and new forms of reading are appearing all the time. Witness the Japanese "cell phone novel," meant to be read in serialized form on the ubiquitous mobile phone. The Economist reports that since appearing in 2001, the genre has grown to become an $82 million business in 2006, with some ebooks receiving over a hundred thousand downloads per day.
I've called out all these numbers in order to encourage Apple to acknowledge that people read vast quantities of text and to focus hardware and software design efforts on making it easier to read on the iPod, iPhone, and future devices. The iPod and iPhone can be used to read some online content now, along with small bits of text synced from a Mac, but the experience could be significantly improved with native support for PDF, better user interface support for stored text documents, and more.
But I, speaking as a reader and a publisher, would really like to see Apple create a larger version of the iPod touch optimized not just for a better video experience, but also for a best-of-breed reading experience. Apple has the hardware design and user interface chops that Amazon lacked when creating the Kindle, plus the knowledge gleaned from the iPhone and the iPod touch in terms of underlying operating system, physical design, and wireless capabilities. Equally important is the iTunes Store, which offers an unparalleled browsing and shopping experience for digital media - it could be extended to support commercial ebooks, subscription-based periodicals, and free blogs in exactly the way it currently supports commercial audiobooks, TV show season passes, and free podcasts.
Such a device would make good business sense for Apple too. iPod sales posted their slowest ever year-over-year growth rate, at only 5 percent, causing some analysts to opine that Apple has saturated the market. Even committed iPod users will purchase replacement iPods only so often. Like the iPhone, a new "iPod reader" in a larger form factor would open up a new market for Apple, but unlike the iPhone, it would be purchased in addition to an iPod nano or iPod shuffle.
John Markoff has speculated that your dismissal of American reading habits is actually a calculated setting of the stage for just such a device. You didn't have kind words for cell phones or the MP3 players that predated the iPod, with justification - they were (and for the most part remain) utterly awful.
So Steve, here's hoping that an upcoming special event will feature an iPod reader, designed to do all the great things we've become accustomed to from an iPod, but with the addition of native support for downloading, managing, and displaying textual documents of all sorts, whether in plain text, PDF, Microsoft Word's .doc, or XML format.
The iPod already gives us access to Beethoven and Bob Dylan, to snapshots of our children, and to The Incredibles and episodes of Lost. Let's add to that The Hobbit and Harry Potter, 1984 and Catch-22, and the complete works of Dr. Seuss. Book publishers have been waiting for a mass-market ebook reader for years, the newspaper companies are dying for a new online business model, and normal people just want to read on the train to work. And of course, I'll be happy to upload to the iTunes Store an entire library of Take Control ebooks that are already popular with tens of thousands of Mac users.
--Adam Engst, TidBITS Publishing Inc.
At a special event in Cupertino, Apple talked about what users can expect to see in iPhone 2.0, and officially announced the release of the iPhone software development kit. The iPhone 2.0 software is scheduled for release in June 2008, a year after the original iPhone shipped. However, a beta of 2.0 is available immediately for selected developers and enterprise customers; it includes support for the iPhone SDK along with new enterprise features. Show full article
The iPhone 2.0 software development kit (SDK) is out, but the iPhone 2.0 software won't appear until June 2008, a year after the original iPhone shipped. Apple promised in late 2007 that it would release an SDK to allow developers to create their own iPhone software by February 2008; what's a week between friends? Especially when Apple appears to have provided more direct access to iPhone features and networking than was expected. The SDK allows use of the cellular and Wi-Fi connection, can sniff location, and offers direct access to gestures, touches, and motion, tying into the iPhone's touchscreen and accelerometer.
The SDK can be downloaded for free, and includes a simulator of the beta version of the 2.0 software; the operating system update will work on both the iPhone and iPod touch. (Apple's servers crumbled under the initial load, with developers complaining about how long it took to get the 2 GB disk image to download - they want it now!) When released in June, the software will be a free upgrade for all iPhone owners, but iPod touch users will have to pay a "nominal fee," much like the recent $20 fee to get the mail, location, widgets, and other items added in January. (Apple books revenue immediately for iPods, requiring it to either restate revenue or charge a fee to handle substantial new features; the iPhone's revenue is accounted for over 24 months.)
Included in the June release will be a host of corporate networking features designed to enhance security, support large-firm infrastructure, and, most remarkably, interact directly with Exchange servers through a license Apple obtained from Microsoft. Might June also mark the release of a 3G iPhone? Nothing was said about it, but that's what we're thinking now.
iPhone SDK -- Apple Vice President of iPhone Software Scott Forstall said that developers would have access to the same APIs and tools that Apple uses to build the iPhone apps, including the Core OS layer, the Core Services layer, the Media layer, and a new application framework called Cocoa Touch, along with an interface simulator for testing software before it's installed on the real hardware.
Developers confirmed for us that the simulator isn't a hardware emulator that pretends to be an iPhone and runs native code. Rather, programs compile for Mac OS X and run within the interface simulator. It's a little odd, but may have been part of Apple's intent in abstracting the hardware and providing less information to phone unlockers, too; the less access to even simulated hardware, the harder it is to jailbreak the iPhone or iPod touch.
The Core OS layer is largely the same as in Mac OS X, though with better power management. The Core Services layer includes things like SQLite for database storage and Core Location, which uses cell tower and Wi-Fi network data to determine location, which only the Maps application currently employs. The Media layer enables the iPhone to play audio and video, and includes things like Core Audio from Mac OS X. And lastly, Cocoa Touch replaces Cocoa as the application framework upon which all applications are built; Cocoa assumes a keyboard and mouse for input, whereas Cocoa Touch assumes that all input comes via touch - single touch, multi-touch, and gestures.
But that's just the foundation - the environment in which iPhone apps are actually created is Xcode, running on a Mac with an Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Developers will use Interface Builder to design and implement iPhone app interfaces, with all the standard user interface elements already available. Other tools include Instruments, which helps developers check memory usage and measure performance, and the iPhone Simulator.
Apple showed a pair of demonstration applications, the first of which was an image manipulation program that allows the user to distort a photo with a touch or a pinch, and to erase the distortion with a shake, like an Etch A Sketch; it reportedly took two days to write. The second was Touch Fighter, a space shooter game in which the user controls the spaceship via the iPhone's accelerometer and fires by tapping the screen; Apple said the software took two weeks to put together.
Apple pulled other developers into their campus to work with the iPhone SDK a few weeks ago; some of those developers, it was claimed, had never written software on a Mac before. Electronic Arts showed a version of their upcoming game Spore in which the accelerometer controls the spore moving around the screen, eating smaller things and avoiding larger ones; once a certain point is reached, the player uses the Evolution Editor via the touchscreen to design a custom spore. Salesforce demoed an app that brings data down from a sales database, giving business data that salespeople need in real time. Next up, AOL showed a version of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) for the iPhone that will eventually provide the level of instant messaging that many iPhone users have wanted instead of SMS messaging. Epocrates showed a drug database for doctors, and lastly, Sega demoed Super Monkey Ball, a version of a console game that, ironically, needed an artist to scale up the graphics for the iPhone's screen.
In general, it seems as though Apple has pulled back the curtains on a great deal of what's possible on the iPhone, although it's not as open as the Macintosh. Needless to say, SIM unlock software won't be allowed, and access to the dock connector will be restricted, other than what's already available via the "Made for iPod" program. Nothing was said about whether Apple would enable support for the iPhone to distribute a cellular-based Internet connection to a laptop via Bluetooth, or if Bluetooth-based support for external input devices like a keyboard would be allowed.
The Free Market Costs 30% -- The only way for users to acquire iPhone apps will be through Apple's new App Store, which looks a lot like the iTunes Store and likely takes advantage of everything Apple has learned while selling four billion songs via iTunes. Free applications will be hosted in the App Store for free, and revenue from commercial applications will be split with developers such that the developer gets 70 percent and Apple keeps 30 percent. Developers also pay a $99 fee to distribute free and commercial programs via the App Store. This fee is per developer, not per application, and isn't required to download and use the SDK.
Response to the revenue sharing among the developer community was largely positive, with many saying they'd expected a 60:40 split, and would have of course preferred an 80:20 split. 70:30 is entirely reasonable in our opinion, partly because that's an all-inclusive fee covering processing, bandwidth, hosting, and marketing; in the traditional book world, for instance, the split between publishers and bookstores is often 50:50. Many ecommerce providers charge 10 to 15 percent for less than Apple will be providing via the App Store's directory and interface.
Developers can choose, of course, to price their offerings higher than they might otherwise to get back some margin, but they have to avoid charging too much. Some developers may simply release free iPhone software that's designed to work with desktop versions of their software sold on a per-seat license. That could push more sales of those applications, or increase licenses sold within companies.
Of more concern was the question of what Apple would allow to be sold through the App Store. Categories of applications that Apple won't accept include anything related to porn, applications designed to violate privacy, bandwidth hogs that could overtax AT&T's data network, malicious programs, and anything that's illegal (which is an ever-increasing amount of software, thanks to the DMCA). While a bandwidth hog over Wi-Fi might be obnoxious, it might be not be considered as much of a problem as filling AT&T's data pipe.
On the face of it, that sounds reasonable, but developers voiced worries over just how Apple would decide, and whether Apple would allow applications that seem to work around Apple's own business model. Paul Kafasis, CEO of Rogue Amoeba, wondered whether Apple would allow their applications on the iPhone. For instance, Apple might not like that Airfoil reverse-engineered the AirTunes protocol, that the listening portion of Radioshift would allow users to listen to music without buying it from the iTunes Store, or that Fission enables users to make ringtones rather than buy them from the iTunes Store. Needless to say, it would be good if Apple would provide rulings before development is complete, so developers don't waste time on applications Apple won't allow.
Another question on our minds is if Apple will accept non-applications for the App Store. For instance, what if a developer writes a game and wants to sell additional levels for it? Or, what if someone writes an ebook reader and others want to sell ebooks in a compatible format? For more thoughts on what Apple could do in this arena, see Adam's "Open Letter to Steve Jobs: In Support of an iPod reader" (2008-03-05).
And what about trialware? Most developers offer 30-day trials of their software, or programs that come with some features locked or disabled. Paying a fee unlocks the program or activates it permanently. Since Apple wants to be a gatekeeper for programs, will they allow this kind of flexibility? Perhaps a "30-day" box that developers can check to delete the program - a la iTunes movie rentals - when the period is up if a user hasn't paid?
If Apple proves overly cautious about applications that are not obviously problematic, we suspect that the vibrant iPhone hacking community will refocus its efforts on hacking the iPhone to accept applications that Apple won't host in the App Store.
While the SDK is freely downloadable, the iPhone Developer Program won't accept all comers yet. Apple has a footnote on its developer page that states, "The iPhone Developer Program will initially be available to a limited number of developers in the U.S. and will expand to other countries in the coming months." It's not quite clear when and how Apple will open the iPhone Developer Program fully.
iPhone Goes to Work -- The iPhone was widely criticized in its first release for lacking a host of critical features for large business information technology (IT) infrastructures (networks, servers, software, computers, and handhelds), generally subsumed under the term "enterprise." It didn't matter that Apple wasn't targeting the iPhone at enterprise users; rather, those in the business world knew iPhones would be brought in to use, and company techies knew that they couldn't support them.
In the enterprise, chief information officers and IT workers want the ability to integrate any new device with their existing technology decisions - which often include specific sets of choices around remote connections (via a virtual private network client), network login policies (which may require digital certificates and keychain fobs), and mail, calendar, contact, and directory services.
Until recently, there wasn't even a way for enterprise users to pay for an iPhone on a corporate account - the iPhone was available only for personal use (see "AT&T Offers iPhone for Enterprise," 2008-01-23). Nevertheless, the iPhone saw significant uptake among executives and others in large corporations. With iPhone 2.0, Apple will be adding a slew of new features aimed at making the iPhone into a better corporate worker bee, including full Microsoft Exchange support.
Apple surprised many industry watchers by announcing that they'd licensed Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft, as Apple rarely licenses anything that's core to their purpose. But in the enterprise, Exchange is one of the kings, and Apple had to pay obeisance to get the pieces necessary to perform robust synchronization and communication. With full Exchange support, Apple can directly take on Research in Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry communicators. Apple took aim at RIM by criticizing their single-point-of-failure approach to having all email and messaging pass through RIM's servers; two recent brief failures have highlighted RIM's vulnerability. In Apple's approach, the iPhone will communicate directly with the enterprise's servers.
This will allow enterprise iPhone users to get real push services, which was one of the big early draws to the BlackBerry, and is available with only Yahoo Mail on the iPhone today. (Yahoo Mail's approach is rather insecure, too, as I documented over at Macworld many months ago.) The Exchange push support includes email, events, and contacts. A contact added to an internal directory will appear nearly immediately in an iPhone's contact list, for instance.
Other important additions include:
- Two-factor authentication. This security policy pairs a password with a key fob, card, or sensor that provides an additional code or offers biometric details (a fingerprint scan, for instance). The password is meaningless without the other detail, the second factor.
- 802.1X and WPA/WPA2 Enterprise logins. While this sounds like a bunch of nonsense to the untrained ear, it's music to an IT manager. 802.1X is generically a method to allow a device to connect to a very limited part of a network while a user confirms their identity; it's "port-based authentication" that firewalls the rest of the network away from the device. 802.1X is used with both Ethernet and Wi-Fi, although the most sensible modern Wi-Fi networks use a subset of 802.1X called WPA/WPA2 Enterprise that requires that WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption methods are used. Without 802.1X support, enterprise iPhone users have been unable to access some corporate networks without unpleasant workarounds.
- Device configuration. It's a bear to manage handheld devices when you have to set them up one at a time. Group configuration allows a passel of devices to be configured at once from a console, and to have the same basic configuration. This is especially important when installing digital certificates; IT personnel often need to install a common root certificate for the entire firm, and an individual certificate that corresponds to the device or the user. (Back in the early days of 802.1X, only certificate-based logins were available, and Microsoft had to have each worker bring their laptop to an IT office to get certificates installed by floppy before the laptop could gain Wi-Fi access to the network.)
- Remote erasure. IT departments want to be able to "brick" a device remotely, in order to wipe sensitive information from a lost or stolen handheld, or one in the hands of an employee who is being terminated...right...now! Apple added this feature to iPhone 2.0, showing it in a demonstration where all the iPhone's data was wiped, after which it rebooted sans any information. It was unclear from the demonstration whether the device's SIM card, containing network authentication, was disabled, although that's likely.
Yet to be answered is whether the enterprise features include a persistent virtual network connection that works across whatever network you're attached to. Several enterprise products designed for mobile workers stick a server in the enterprise and client software on the mobile device that uses a special property of TCP/IP networking to suspend a connection when a network is switched. This allows something as intensive as streaming media to halt, wait for the network to change, and resume.
This would be an ideal addition to the iPhone, because it combines security with seamless access, and reduces disruption for the user. Apple could build such technology in, but there's no standard on the server side, so they would have to develop or license such technology. More likely, the SDK would allow such a client to be created, but limit its distribution to enterprise customers.
Enterprises can pay a $299 fee to create programs that can be distributed for in-house use only, via a version of the App Store that will enable a corporation to distribute internal applications securely. An internal App Store may also be how enterprise-focused software developers will distribute their packages, which are typically licensed for a site or on a per-user or per-system basis, to their customers.
Xcode Marks the Spot -- It's clear that Apple's decision to develop Xcode as a single, unified development platform has wound up being as important to the company's long-term success as their move to Unix with Mac OS X, and their switch to Intel processors to ensure having the fastest possible computer. While developers have varying opinions about Xcode, its ability to extend development so rapidly from PowerPC to Intel processors during that transition, and now to leap over to mobile devices, allowing programmers to leverage their existing knowledge, means that Apple can now throw its entire existing development community at the fastest-selling mobile device in history.
iPhone developers, start your simulated engines!
by Jeff Carlson
Does a good CEO need to be a tyrant? Is there a better digital photo management application than iPhoto? Will we be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPhone 2.0 software? Is there a way to silence an overenthusiastic PowerBook G4 fan? This week's discussions ask several questions, and readers provide the answers.Show full article
Powerbook G4 "Fan" Club -- The fan on a reader's PowerBook won't let up; will restoring the laptop's firmware to its factory settings fix the problem? (2 messages)
Any dotMac offer in France? Renewing a .Mac account for less than Apple's fee (which can be done by purchasing a boxed license from Amazon and other outlets) is not limited to U.S. customers. (3 messages)
Document Scanning Software -- What solutions are available to archive a lot of paper documentation digitally? Is PDF a safe bet for making searchable copies? (30 messages)
Replacement For MS Publisher -- Readers reveal software products that can read Microsoft Publisher files and convert them to a workable format on the Mac. (6 messages)
Terminal Application -- Really, who doesn't need to pass a file from a Mac to an HP handheld calculator over USB? Here's how. (11 messages)
Time Capsule Ships with Support for USB Drive Backups -- The network backup solution many people are waiting for is just out of range, as Glenn Fleishman discovers that Time Capsule will perform Time Machine backups to an attached USB hard disk. C'mon Apple, enable this feature on regular AirPort Extreme base stations. At the very least, we'll all stop bugging you about it. (1 message)
Open Letter to Steve Jobs: In Support of an iPod reader -- TidBITS Talk readers respond to Adam's open letter to Apple concerning the development of an electronic book reader. (23 messages)
iCal Plug-in -- Several public iCal calendars are available that keep track of major and minor holidays. Subscribing to them might help you remember the next one. (4 messages)
Fortune: The Trouble with Steve Jobs -- Fortune's cover story on Jobs and Apple brings up a question: Does a good CEO need to be a tyrant? (2 messages)
Will the iPhone SDK allow for Bluetooth access to peripherals? It looks as if some readers' dreams of using a Bluetooth keyboard (or other peripheral) with an iPhone or iPod touch won't be coming true with the iPhone SDK. (4 messages)
What's better than iPhoto? After encountering problems with iPhoto 6, a reader wonders if another program can do a better job of managing digital photos. (2 messages)