Apparently a few people were surprised when I blogged about being disappointed when I heard that third-party developers wouldn’t be able to build native iPhone apps. After all, I’m a Windows desktop developer, so why would I care about the iPhone?
The truth is, even though I’m a desktop developer, I think the future of computing is mobile. Before long, mobile devices will provide the ability to carry around the equivalent of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You’ll be able to find out whatever you want to know regardless of where you are. That’s insanely powerful.
But so far I’ve hated every mobile device I’ve seen. They’re too clunky, too geeky, and generally just too user-hostile. I’ve stuck with a woefully outdated, underpowered cell phone for years because of this.
So I got pretty excited when I saw the iPhone. Finally a mobile device which recognized the importance of the user experience. This was something I could develop for.
Then Apple announced that native iPhone apps wouldn’t be possible. Why not? According to Steve Jobs:
“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform. You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”
Wow. Is it just me, or does that sound like Steve Jobs is willing to give up on the desktop because it can’t be secured? After all, the iPhone runs OS-X, and Jobs basically said that Apple can’t secure their OS enough to trust third party developers to write native apps for it. So we’re supposed to believe that they can secure their browser enough to run web apps on the iPhone?
Sure, there’s a lot of power in combining a great mobile device with a great web app like Google Maps, but even successful web developers realize the importance of native apps. For the iPhone to really take off outside of the geekosphere, it has to be able to access data that’s not on the web, and it has to provide a seamless user experience.
For that to happen, Apple needs to open up the iPhone to outside developers.