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Let OS X developers at the iPhone. Please.

Sixfoot6 Archives: 30 Things the iPhone Could Do That You Haven't Thought of Yet

Ryan's list contains a lot of the tear-inducingly sexy fantasies that were going through my own mind on Tuesday morning when we all heard that the iPhone was going to run OS X.

Like a lot of my friends, I (probably naively) took the announcement to mean that, as on my own Mac, I'd be able to install Cocoa applications built to take advantage of announced features like WebKit, Core Animation, and so on. Sure, given the foreseeable hardware limitations, these wouldn't be the exact applications that we're each running on our MacBooks today, but, hell, I'd take "OmniOutliner Mobile" or "iTerm Lite" or "Textmate for iPhone" in a heartbeat. No question.

Yesterday morning, though, I started to hear rumbles about the "inability for users to install additional applications of their choosing." And then later, after Brian from Gizmodo got a hands-on demo along with a sit-down with official Apple honchos, he noted...

It isn't OS X proper, as you'd expect. And like an iPod, it won't be an open system that people can develop for. Remember, this is both an iPod and a Phone.

...and I died a little inside.

Yes, there's still months for this to change, and yes, this is a 1.0, and yes, one reason the iPod became the iPod is because Cupertino retained 100% quality control (up to the point of individual musical taste). So I would completely understand why user-installable applications are off the table. Or how, as my friends have speculated, third-party functionality might be handled in a tightly controlled and for-pay way (ala iPod Games).

Yes I'd understand, but I'd feel like Apple was abandoning an opportunity to make this more than a phone, and more that an iPod, and even -- let's be frank about the elephant in the room -- much more than a Palm or a Pocket PC. There's the potential here for some serious George Jetson shit and it would be a pity not to capitalize on that as early as possible.

I hope our friends at Apple will clarify what we can expect this phone to do for us as Mac users and share that information with developers as soon as possible. To be more honest I guess I wish some C-level would pop in to say "Oh, silly. It's OS X: of course you can just drop mobile versions of your applications onto iTunes and they're installed for you!" But, regrettably for now, I think that ain't gonna happen. And it's a bummer.

This week there are a lot of excellent software companies wandering around the floor at Macworld scratching their heads and muttering to themselves about the under-development products that could really benefit from having OS X mobile functionality. They're anxious and thrilled to start doing what indie developers have always done for Apple -- provide the software that answers questions, solves problems, and gives us the personalized affordances to love using Apple hardware all the more.

When it hits stores this summer, the iPhone will be reaching thousands of people who "hate macs." And, as with the iPod, that's obviously the idea (note that this is not a "Mac Phone"). If our beloved OS X developers can introduce people on the other side to the richness and variety of the OS X Mac experience via this lovely phone, you can expect to make an extraordinary number of those former haters into new evangelists for the former "Apple Computer, Inc."

[ Ryan's page via mathowie ]

Allen's picture

Apple has it's new toy....

Apple has it's new toy. It's new toy has so many possibilities it's amazingly insane. Will Apple actually accomplish what is possible? Likely not. I say this from past experiences with Apple. There are numerous items we could list. Unx that's not really unx, moving files on coders and not telling anyone where they go, or that they replaced them. Hardware crippling on purpose, randomizing and hiding data files, forcing DRM on its purchasers... it's not the first time that Apple would move in for the kiss and then turn their heads at the last moment. Isn't this what used to frustrate us MacEvangelists so much? And yet, they're still the prettiest girl on the block, and have the most potential. And that's why we are still here.

iTunes and the iPod wasn't really a light-year advancement. Anyone who was familiar with the online music scene knew someone was going to make a device and webstore. Most of us wished we had the funds to do it ourselves, and some tried but couldn't get the music industry to play along. In fact, many of us were asking "Why the hell hasn't anyone done this yet?!" The music industry links is what made the iPod. I suspect Apple learned well... the same industry links will make the iPhone. Yahoo, Google, etc. (hollywood for movies on iTunes/iPhone/AppleTV?) Why else would we get talks from these leaders at the Keynote as well as specific coded apps for the iPhone from them? This bodes ill for developers, it means Apple has signed up exclusively with a few people to develop with. (my suspicion)

and that same question: "Why the hell hasn't anyone done this yet?!" is easily asked with the iPhone. For example- doing a 3-way call- hell, it should be that easy- it should have been that easy a decade ago. Non-linear phone messages? Lordy lordy, we all wished that a decade ago as well. These ideas aren't new, and they aren't advancements. The sorry state of the smart-phones have had us all scratching our heads for years and years... and only a few willing to actually attempt to use them. So, Apple finally stopped us banging our heads against the wall wishing for a device that was easier to use, that had Wifi and real web-sites... but should we give them an award for thinking this up? Not really. We should give them an award for just being the first to actually spend the money to do it. (And we said the same thing with the iPod, didn't we?)

Now, they have on their hands a device that has enormous potential: business IT guys could use to change websites, update blogs/company news, watch server stats, write code in vi/emacs- ssh into home machines to run scripts (as mentioned above), almost everything that a computer can do now on the Wifi link, this phone likely could do. [Especially the lower memory CLI options.] Will Apple let go of it's baby and let people develop for it? Likely not. Apple will closely guard this device. Because Apple knows you'll come and use it, and hang on Apple's every update to the next widget- hoping that this time, you can read your scientific research articles in PDF form. Likely- it won't happen anytime soon.

About the interface- It's cute, it's an advancement- but can a single button pressed and held get you a phone call? Doesn't seem like it- so we're looking at a phone that is going to be a bit more difficult to use to get the every-day phone call (that I can do with a speed-dial easily with one hand) and does a bunch of other stuff that likely you'll have to sign on for high-cost data link time and be allowed to only run the few killer-apps they develop.

At least we can finally sync Contacts. How long did it take to get that? Is this an advancement in thought? No, but, an advancement yes. So, thank God we can finally sync contacts and finally browse with a real browser from a phone. Very cool. Now- how easy will it really be to use it? How many wifi spots can be found and used? And honestly, will I be able to do more than what I was just shown- even though what I was just shown is very cool... the possibilities for this device is really what makes me want it. [Give me a cli, give me SSH, give all coders ability to code front-ends to applications we use daily- OOp, OmniFocus, Acrobat, etc. etc.- and you'll find me a user who will be eating out of your hand.]

Hell, the blogging capabilities with a built in camera and fully-featured web-access alone are amazing...

The possibilities are endless... all Apple has to do is let Developers do what they do best.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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