"Stop me if you've already seen this," cracked Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs as he introduced the new iPhone 4 during his keynote appearance Monday at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Jobs' joke was a direct reference to the lost iPhone prototype infamously purchased and publicized by technology website Gizmodo, of course, but the comment could have applied to much of what unfolded onstage at WWDC 2010--with so many of Apple's newest innovations already public knowledge and so many rumors (e.g., an iPhone deal with Verizon Wireless) failing to pan out, there were few if any genuine surprises, and by now, the introduction of a new, upgraded iPhone has become a summertime ritual as familiar as fireworks on the Fourth of July. The biggest news wasn't even an addition but a subtraction: the iPhone OS is now simply iOS 4, a subtle but telling move hinting that the operating system is poised to power a new wave of non-phone devices in the months and years ahead.
Jobs proclaimed iOS 4 "the most advanced mobile operating system in the world," but offered few new specifics beyond what he first announced in early April. The new OS will include 100 new features and 1,500 new APIs, highlighted by the introduction of multitasking, folders, a unified inbox and expanded search options. iPhone 4 itself boasts Apple's new FaceTime video calling solution, the new Retina display, a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, HD video recording, support for iBooks, Apple's A4 processor and a three-axis gyro that should herald significant strides in mobile gaming.
WWDC isn't an iPhone informercial, however--it's a developer conference, and time and again Jobs summoned facts and figures to underscore the increasingly lucrative relationship between Apple and its developer partners. Among them: There are now 225,000 apps in the App Store; the number of native apps for the iPad tops 8,500, with downloads in excess of 35 million, or 17 apps per unit; there are now more than 100 million iOS-powered devices worldwide; and Apple has now paid out $1 billion in App Store developer revenues. The most impressive number was $60 million, which according to Jobs is the amount marketers have already committed to Apple's fledgling iAd mobile advertising network--brands including Nissan, Citi, Unilever, AT&T, Sears, Target, JC Penney and Best Buy have so far signed on, and with developers earning 60 percent of iAd revenues (translating to $36 million), conventional app revenues could soon look like chump change.
"Why are we doing iAds?" Jobs said. "We are doing it for one simple reason. To help our developers earn money so they continue to create free and low-cost apps for our users." Jobs also stressed the simplicity of the iAd system, promising the crowd "All you have to do is tell us where you want to put them and make money."
And that's why developers continue to line up for admission into the App Store, even though Apple continues to pull the rug out from under them. Last week, just days prior to WWDC, came reports that Apple is now deleting widget applications from the virtual storefront. According to developer Russell Ivanovic, his Groundhog Software was contacted by Apple with word the computing giant planned to remove the startup's iPad photo frame app MyFrame: "[Apple] refused to be pinned down to an exact reason, simply stating that they were doing a cull of any applications that presented widgets to the user," Ivanovic writes on his blog. "All the guy on the phone would say is how much he liked our application, and how sorry he was, but there was nothing he could do. All we got out of him was that Apple no longer liked ‘widgets' and wanted all widget apps removed."
Seeking further clarification, Ivanovic contacted Jobs directly, firing off an email reading in part "Apparently Apple is cracking down on ‘widgety' type apps. Our app is a beautiful photo frame with a few nice things you can put over your photos. It's not ugly, or even widgety. What gives?" Ivanovic soon received a reply mailed from Jobs' account and sent from the exec's iPad, reading "We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops. Sorry." Call it The Book of Jobs--Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. -Jason