iPhone SDK: More pros than cons

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View
Apple's iPhone media event ended just minutes ago. So this is a very rough first take of my reaction. And my reaction overall is positive. The news is much better than my worst fears, although a little worse than my highest hopes.

Here are the upside highlights:



    • Developers will get full access to the iPhone's toolbox. From the sound of things, any software that Apple can write in-house, developers will be able to do as well. For example, the iPhone accelerometer will be accessible, as seen in some of the cool games that were demoed.

    • Apple will release an iPhone Simulator that allows developers to test out their iPhone apps on a Mac.

    • The iPhone SDK is free to developers and a beta version will be available today!

    • Distribution of iPhone apps to users will be through an "App Store" application on your iPhone. YES! This means that you will be able to get software onto your iPhone directly from the phone itself. You won't need to go through the iTunes application on a Mac or PC (although there will be iTunes access to the apps as well). Steve said you should be able to access the App Store via Wi-Fi or EDGE.

    • The App Store will permit distribution of free software. Other than an initial $99 fee to publish software, there will be no charge for posting free apps. Developers will get to decide whether and what to charge for their software. Apple will take 30% of the price, if it is not free.

    • Although Apple will place some limits on what software is allowed (no porn was mentioned, for example), it seems like Apple is not going to be overly restrictive here.



Now for the bad news:



    • The iPhone Software Update 2.0 that allows users to get all of this software will not be available until June. The wait continues!

    • Apple will apparently do its best to prevent developers from distributing software on their own. Exactly what this will mean for the software currently available via jailbreaking is not clear. Maybe Apple simply won't officially support alternative distribution methods, but will still tacitly allow jailbreaking to continue. However, I suspect Apple will try to put an end to jailbreaking. Whether or not they can succeed remains to be seen.

    • Aside from the new enterprise features (which I am skipping over here, except to say that the ability to mass delete and move email messages is extremely welcome!) and AIM for the iPhone (which may be included as part of a default iPhone installation), no other upcoming new iPhone features were announced. There was no mention of a 3G iPhone, more open Bluetooth access or voice-dialing, to name three things that I am especially looking forward to seeing.

    • There was also no mention of whether or not third-party software will be able to allow hardware devices to connect to and work with an iPhone. I am especially thinking of something like a wireless keyboard. It remains unclear whether or not such devices will be possible via the SDK, but it seems unlikely. Apple did specifically say that they would not support any apps accessing the Dock Connector, outside of those that are approved for Apple's "Made for iPod" program.




Bottom line: Having to wait until June for the Software Update, after expecting it to be available by February, is obviously a big disappointment. However, once June rolls around, all will be forgiven and forgotten.

Most users will be more than satisfied, at least in the short term, with what the Software Update allows. I would guess that about 90% of the third-party software now available via jailbreaking will wind up in the App Store. For the typical iPhone user, that should eliminate virtually any incentive to jailbreak their iPhone. Some software, perhaps apps that allow direct manipulation of the contents of the iPhone's drive and certainly apps that perform actions that Apple does not want to permit (such as unlocking the SIM), will still have to depend upon jailbreaking. But most users won't want such stuff, or at least won't want to risk jailbreaking to get it.

On the plus side, by Apple completely opening up its iPhone toolbox and providing a "legal" method for third-party development, we should see a much wider and more elaborate selection of software than now exists. The games that were demoed today, for example, far exceed the rather minimalist games now available via jailbreaking.

So yes, we could have gotten a bit more. But we could have gotten a lot less. Yesterday, the iPhone was one of the greatest technological devices ever invented. Today it is even better—much better. It's hard to complain about that.

Comments

Dogzilla

One thing I’m not clear on - and which apparently didn’t occur to any of the press present - was whether as of iPhone sw version 2.0 the iPhone will only run signed apps. There appears to be some sort of mechanism in place for this - the $99 charge to become a “registered developer” appears to include a certificate which will presumably sign the apps you develop. This was hinted at at several spots in the presentation. However, it was not explicitly made clear, and I’m left wondering whether unsigned apps will run with a warning or whether they will simply not run. It seems clear that the ITMS will not distribute unsigned apps, but how much of a warden will the iphone software itself be?
——-

BurmaYank

What’s the deal with nobody discussing any plans regarding iPhone’s current Flash incapability?

Dogzilla
[quote comment=“179”]What’s the deal with nobody discussing any plans regarding iPhone’s current Flash incapability?

Twofold, I think - 1) Flash was discussed by Jobs earlier this week (http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200803041742DOWJONESDJONLINE000829_FORTUNE5.htm), and 2) Not that many folks miss it outside of a vocal minority.

Charles Martin

While I’m sure the flash debate is important on some level, I as a typical user haven’t missed it a bit. Remember that the place users most often encounter Flash is in web site ADS, and I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Yes, the lack of flash “locks out” a few web sites and some game possibilities on the iPhone. That’s why I also have a computer. What I use my iPhone for (apart from calls) is checking my email, surfing a few important sites, and some diversionary stuff (mostly covered under the iPod part of it).

Flash isn’t a huge consideration. At best it’s a very minor inconvenience.

Nick

I am still left wondering about the state of future iphone media capabilites, and synchronization with a Mac.  Obviously developers are given access to the media, and networking stacks. 

Should this translate to easy implementation of a WiFi sync between iTunes and the iphone? 

What about API access to the internal ipod library?  Will we be able to write apps to automatically download podcast updates over-the-air?

And what about media streaming?  using this sdk, are we given access to network connections to, for instance, the audio output of an airport express?

Terrin

Why would Apple support Flash? It competes with Quicktime. Apple doesn’t want Adobe to gain dominance in the Mobile world. Moreover, I could care less. Flash is a constant source of pain for me as it usually used to present me ads.

[quote comment=“179”]What’s the deal with nobody discussing any plans regarding iPhone’s current Flash incapability?

Marc

Umm,,, because, like it or not, Flash is ubiquitous on all platforms and web developers that realize this use Flash for content presentation over WMV or QuickTime files. Ever get pissed off because a site has a stinking WMV file you can’t view in Safari? The iPhone is also a web browser for sites NOT written specifically for the mobile market. I hate Flash-only sites, but I use Flash for movie and slideshow presentations on sites I build. The iPhone market isn’t going to force my hand at the expense of the larger general desktop world.

And, Adobe Flash already HAS dominance.

[quote comment=“183”]Why would Apple support Flash? It competes with Quicktime. Apple doesn’t want Adobe to gain dominance in the Mobile world. Moreover, I could care less. Flash is a constant source of pain for me as it usually used to present me ads.

krquet

I don’t like Flash, never did. I find them resource hogs. In the olden days, whenever I would leave my webpage up on a site rich with flash (flashy banners and what nots) for a few hours unattended, I’d come back to find my system unresponsive on countless occasions. Flash thrived on resident memory and didn’t like to release the chunk it consumed earlier. I understand Adobe has improved this with later upgrades, but I still am not convinced.
On the Firefox I use the add-ons to disable flash on each of my computers, home and at work. Whenever that I do watch youtube on a PC, I would switch to IE briefly. But I prefer the H.264 for youtube videos via my iPhone and Apple TV. I honestly do.
This is not a bash against Adobe or flash with bias. I just am not a fan, and I sincerely appreciate that Apple has chosen not to incorporate/force the flashy banner side of the web on me. However, what with the SDK release now, I do expect Adobe to find a way to incorporate/unleash a flash player on the willing iPhones 2.0x users.

Don
[quote comment=“184”]Umm,,, because, like it or not, Flash is ubiquitous on all platforms

Huh? Ubiquitous? Not hardly—web-capable mobile devices don’t support it.

web developers that realize this use Flash for content presentation over WMV or QuickTime files.

And they’re making a mistake by doing so. Flash is not ubiquitous, is a major system hog, is not standards-based, and is widely reviled as an obnoxious time and system resource waster.

I use Flash for movie and slideshow presentations on sites I build.

Stop doing that. Use H.264.

The iPhone market isn’t going to force my hand at the expense of the larger general desktop world.

Attaboy! Don’t give in!

And, Adobe Flash already HAS dominance.

It’s the beginning of the end…

Dave

i have an iPhone and i dont miss flash one bit. I hate video encoded in it, it just stinks. why would I want it on a phone? Flash suck for web development as well as it cant be spidered. Anyone doing all flash work for anything is a fool. So you can view your flashy home page you built for yourself, flash banner and video and flash slide show?? Boo f*king hoo.

Yes keep fighting because of the larger desktop world, but even google concedes that mobile search will surpass desktop searches in 5 years, and right now, the iPhone is responsible for 50 times more search than it next closest competitor.

you keep fighting the iPhone from “forcing your hand”. just shut up about it, accept you arent forcing anyones hand with your whining and buy a phone that can do flash. Oh that right, there arent any.

JulesLt

Ted - I’m placing a sidebet than June will also see a revised iPhone to go with the 2.0 software, that may answer some of the remaining hardware criticisms, much as the SDK and Enterprise features have answered most of the software ones.

As for jailbreaking - I presume this is actually going to be easier - surely you just pay the $99 to register yourself as a developer, and then compile your apps against your personal certificate, if they are ones Apple don’t want to distribute.
Someone is bound to automate that tool-chain, and maybe even hack it to work with Windows. But it is going to be such a tiny minority market, I doubt Apple will care to much.

Don - web-capable mobile devices = an insignificant proportion of current browsers. Lack of screen resolution OR web standards support on most of them is a far worse issue. And if you look before you leap you will find that the Flash 9 video format IS H.264 - H.264 is simply a codec. I’m guessing what you mean is ‘use an MPEG-4 mov file’? Even though, of course, not all web-capable mobile devices can play them (or indeed desktop browsers without the suitable and relevant plugin).

Anyway, don’t you know that MPEG standards are evil and closed and we should all be using Ogg-Theora now?

BurmaYank

[quote comment=“186”][quote comment=“184”]Umm,,, because, like it or not, Flash is ubiquitous on all platforms

Huh? Ubiquitous? Not hardly—web-capable mobile devices don’t support it.

web developers that realize this use Flash for content presentation over WMV or QuickTime files.

And they’re making a mistake by doing so. Flash is not ubiquitous, is a major system hog, is not standards-based, and is widely reviled as an obnoxious time and system resource waster.

http://www.ipodobserver.com/story/35058

Ted

[quote comment=“188”]Ted - I’m placing a sidebet than June will also see a revised iPhone to go with the 2.0 software…

I absolutely agree. It seems all but certain that a 3G iPhone is going to be released this year.  Combining its release with the release of iPhone Software 2.0 in June would certainly make sense. This would also allow Software 2.0 to include support for new features in the 3G iPhone, as well as possibly new features that apply to all iPhones, that have not yet been announced.

- Ted

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