So the big question regarding the email Apple sent last week to developers who applied for entry to Apple’s iPhone SDK beta program is whether anyone at all has been admitted already. Only Apple knows for sure, but so far as I can tell, the answer is no — no one has been admitted into the beta program via the $99 sign-up process.
I believe there are a small handful of developers who are sort of “in” already, but they were hand-selected by Apple. Perhaps, as with the ones who came on stage during the event to demo their “two weeks worth of work” apps, they were involved before the SDK was even officially announced.
But everything I’ve heard suggests that last week’s email from Apple was sent to everyone who applied for the program. I.e., there are developers who’ve been let in through the back door, but no one has gotten in through the front door yet.
One factor, I think, is that Apple’s system for digital certificates (which will allow approved developers to test and run apps on actual iPhones) isn’t yet fully baked — I don’t think Apple could let more developers in today even if they wanted to. Another is that the response has been simply overwhelming. Two sources told me that Apple has received at least 10,000 applications to the $99 beta program.
It’s also worth reiterating that however exclusive the iPhone SDK beta program is going to be, there’s no indication that the program will remain exclusive once it’s out of beta come June. (The big question, long-term, isn’t how exclusive the official developer program is going to be, but rather how exclusive the App Store is going to be.)
As a postscript on the “no background apps” policy, a source confirmed to me that the iPhone AIM client AOL demoed during the iPhone Roadmap event does not cheat by continuing to run in the background — it quits when you switch to another app, but doesn’t log you out of AIM automatically. Such a client can’t notify you of IM messages from the background (a la the way the iPhone notifies of you SMS messages), but when you switch back to the AIM app, messages you missed should appear. Be wary of claims that “An app that does X is impossible without background processing.”