In the collective rush to pat Apple on the back for releasing an SDK for the iPhone platform (some segments of the media are acting like they've never seen an SDK before - did they think there could be an iPhone platform without one?) it seems, from my perspective at least, to be some serious issues being overlooked.
One point that I can't help but bring up is that of timing. When the App Store hits the web in June, these apps will be being loaded onto hardware that's been available for a year. Add the R&D time for the iPhone into the mix and that makes the platform even older. It's taken Apple a year to bring out an SDK (and the infrastructure such as the App Store in order to monetize the SDK). A year is a long time in the hardware world. All this begs a simple question - How long until iPhone 2.0 hits the stores? I've heard from people who claim to be in the know that iPhone 2.0 will be out before the end of the year and others who claim that a new iPhone won't be released until the current iPhone hits two years old.
My guess is that Apple is going to play the iPhone 2.0 card close to its chest. Once the smell of iPhone 2.0 is out, that'll kill sales of the existing model - so it's in Apple's interest to keep the lead time to the new iPhone as short as possible. In other words, developers aren't going to be getting any kind of heads-up that a new version is on the way. And when the new iPhone does hit the shelves, how long will developers have to wait for an updated SDK? Not a year I hope.
These issues relating to platform development aren't unique to Apple by any means (developing for platforms, especially mobile platforms, sucks and this is the reason why many platforms that sound good on paper never take off) but the problem for iPhone developers will be Apple's ultra-secret nature. We've seen Apple's willingness to trash iPhones that it considers to be tampered with almost on a whim and I don't expect Apple to change this high-handed way of operating. My guess is that developers working on the iPhone platform will be at Apple's mercy right from the start. Apple needs third party developers to make the iPhone platform work but I really don't expect the company to admit this.
How I see things being at present is that there's a huge amount of energy in the third-party iPhone development community, but if anything is capable of killing that it's Apple's incessant control-freakery and ultra-secret nature.
[UPDATE: To take a look at some of the control freakery in action, take a look at this post on Mac Daddy World.]