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:
It’s a similar API to OSX — They claim it’s identical - but there are limitations
Cocoa is the language — They’ve adapted the standard Cocoa to replace mouse/keyboard interactivity with touch and accelerometer feedback — imaginatively called Cocoa Touch.
Access to all the media functionality — Audio and recording (through OpenAL), h.264 playback, images, pdf, 2D Quartz and 3D through OpenGL.
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.
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.
Apps are signed with developer certificates — A license costs $99 and can be revoked if you start breaking the rules.
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:
- Bandwidth hog
The first two are givens but the final four leave some gaping questions that weren’t covered in the Q&A after the presentation:
Illegal: iPhone is international with different laws applying in different places. Software patents, for example, just don’t apply here in the EU (har har, America =P), but with the App Store being centralised, would we be bound by your laws?
Malicious: If Apple are scanning apps, does this mean that all source has to be given to Apple? Is that going to have a noticeable knock-on time from releasing something (or an update for it) to when it’s available?
Privacy: I understand that apps should be secure and shouldn’t (unintentionally or otherwise) share all your shit without your permission, but where is the line drawn?
Bandwidth hogs: again, who decides? AT&T? They have said that VOIP is okay on WiFi connections only.
And the unforeseen… When I read that I see “Oh things that we decide we arbitrarily don’t like and want to squash”. Nice, Apple, real nice.
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…