Well, anyone hoping for a real SDK for the iPhone must be disappointed as hell. But then really, how reasonable was it to expect Apple to not just finish the iPhone in time (which we know was a close call), but also create a complete set of developer tools for it, including user interface guidelines and all? I think those who are disappointed kind of deserve to be.
So Steve tossed a bone to developers. His suggestion that they should develop web apps for the iPhone will certainly infuriate a lot of them, and it does seem a bit audacious to me as well. However, I'm sure that once Apple gets around to creating it, a real SDK will be there for all aspiring iPhone developers. But, seeing how carefully Apple wants to control both the stability and the public image of the iPhone, that should take a while. I agree with just about everything that Daniel Eran says on the subject.
However, I also think Steve Jobs is really on to something here. I don't doubt for a second that there will be hundreds, maybe thousands of websites or web applications written specifically for the iPhone. Not just because whenever Jobs speaks, people will start to listen, and stuff will be happening (though the Jobsian charisma is definitely part of it), but also because the iPhone and its Safari web browser will very likely create a new business: that of handheld web applications.
- The iPhone has limited resources, while a web app usually lives on a powerful and scalable server. Therefore the remote app can perform operations faster than a local iPhone application could.
- The user interface of a web application is closer to that of an iPhone app than it is to a desktop application. Due to their greatly simplified user interfaces, iPhone apps have fewer advantages over web applications than desktop apps do, so web applications will look less out of place on the device.