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As much as I dislike Apple, the SDK looks cool

Thursday, 6 March 2008 apple iphone releases

Watching the aftermath of the Apple event today, I couldn’t help but feel like my psyche is pulling me in several different directions.

It’s no secret: I’m not the world’s biggest Apple fan. They make good hardware and it’s all pretty but their cross-platform software ports are horrendous, their stuff is massively expensive, they pump the PR machine like a Dutch prostitute and their fans (like all fans, I’ll admit) are a touch on the nauseating side of acceptable fan behaviour.

But today they launched their software development kit and all my dislikes seemed less relevant.

Here’s the important SDK stuff they covered today:

  1. It’s a similar API to OSX — They claim it’s identical - but there are limitations

  2. Cocoa is the language — They’ve adapted the standard Cocoa to replace mouse/keyboard interactivity with touch and accelerometer feedback — imaginatively called Cocoa Touch.

  3. Access to all the media functionality — Audio and recording (through OpenAL), h.264 playback, images, pdf, 2D Quartz and 3D through OpenGL.

  4. Xcode to create apps — Code complete for the iPhone SDK APIs. Integrates with version-control apps. Has a remote debugger but also a simulator so you can safely dry-run your apps before unleashing them on your pretty phone. WYSIWYG designers. Localisation support. Mac only.

  5. Distribution through the App Store — Again, no points for imagination wit the name, but it’s informative. Developers pick the price, Apple take a 30% chunk of revenues but only to cover costs. Free apps are free to host through the store. There are some apps that are not allowed and I’ll come to that in a minute.

  6. Apps are signed with developer certificates — A license costs $99 and can be revoked if you start breaking the rules.

  7. Same rules for the iPod Touch — This is a seriously nice feature for anybody wanting to get into this stuff without the massively expansive and length contract. I predict this point alone is going to shift a lot of Macs and iPod Touches in the coming months.

Okay, so no major surprises here but there are a few unanswered questions - especially surrounding limitations. The list of disqualified application types:

The first two are givens but the final four leave some gaping questions that weren’t covered in the Q&A after the presentation:

As you can probably tell from my tone, some of my stoic British cynicism is returning to me, as the effects of being wowed by the apple PR behemoth is wearing off. But this SDK announcement along with the plethora of other updates they mentioned today, is really going to put the squeeze on competitors products…

… I wonder how they’ll all respond…