Give the NYTimes David Pogue full credithe was one of the first pundits to recognize the value of the iPhone’s API and apps creation capabilities. Listen to what he said a year ago:

“It’s no big secret that the big tech news next week will be the July 11 release of the new iPhone. But it strikes me that the really big news is the App Store, which opens the same day. As I’ve written before, I think the potential of a single, centralized software storehouse and direct downloads to your phone (and most of them free) is absolutely staggering.”

When David wrote this there were 16 iPhone Apps. About a month later David reported over 550 iPhone apps. Today there are over 50,000 iPhone apps. Now that is real Wow!

This is the competitive advantage that iPhone has against all its smartphone competitors . Not just an API but also a store where the apps can be bought or downloaded for free. Compare the paucity of apps at the Android Market despite the fact that Google charges not at all for apps sold there and has a powerful, Eclipse based development tool. This may change with the appearance of Netbooks using Google Android; but the fact of the matter is that Apple leads with developers, developers, developers. This is is situation not seen since the Apple II days over 25 years ago.

But the whole trick, as Microsoft’s going-going-nearly-all-gone Visual Basic developers attest to,  will be keeping these developers happy and churning out code for the iPhone and other Apple platforms [think rumored tablet and the senior Apple notebooks and server computers].  It is a task that not just Redmond has fumbled; but the the whole IT industry is not so skilled at.

The underlying problem is the pace of change of hardware and software in computing and smart devices. Developers with working apps are reluctant to change to a new API or hardware unless they can see benefits to the sales of their apps. So congratulations are due to Apple for the foresight and thinking of creating and  attracting so many developers to their App Store. But also Good Luck keeping them happy.

Update: Olga Kharif at Business Week has an excellent article on exactly how Apple is working to keep those developers, developers, developers happy – well worth the read.
Update 2: Raven Zachary at OReilly Radar has a fascinating review of some  next-gen iPhone Apps.