In the wake of Apple CEO Steve Jobs telling The Wall Street Journal that there have been more than 60 million apps downloaded from Apple's iPhone App store, software maker Morph Labs has launched an application support program for iPhone developers.
Morph Labs is one company in a big cloud of PAAS (platform as a service) software providers looking to let programmers write applications and host them on its own infrastructure.
Morph, Coghead, Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services, Google, Salesforce.com, Elastra, Etelos and Bungee Labs are among the computing vendors looking to host software for developers or businesses that don't have the capital to buy computer servers and storage arrays, or even an IT staff to maintain the application once it's up and running.
In this cloud computing paradigm, another example of how the Web is being used to leverage new business opportunities, programmers write an application, upload it to their platform of choice, and let the service provider deploy and maintain it.
Morph Labs CEO David Abramowski told me the new program for iPhone Web application developers will let them build applications based on Ruby on Rails, Java and Grails and deploy them to the Morph AppSpace service, a managed environment for running Web applications. PHP support is forthcoming.
Programmers upload applications to Morph's data center routing facility, which spins the apps off into an Internet cloud hosted by Amazon Web Services' EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and S3 (Simple Storage Service).
More detail about the nuts and bolts operations: Abramowski said the Morph Application Platform "reverse-virtualizes" the servers, aggregating the servers underneath the platform instead of atop it.
The computing environment is bundled together in a computer cube, which Morph charges $1 per day to run. Morph's entry-level service is a two-cube system. Morph can place as many cubes as it wants in the cloud, allowing the apps to scale.
Morph's systems administrators then track the bandwidth, providing monitoring and up-to-the-minute database backups 24/7. If a computing cube goes down at Amazon, Morph can reroute its customers around that to stay online.
That Morph would cozy up to Apple's iPhone Apps programmers makes sense for a 1-year-old company looking to build up its customer base. Apple launched the App Store July 11, one month ago today, with 550 applications for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
More than 10 million iPhone Apps were downloaded in the first three days. Apple skipper Jobs told the Journal Aug. 11 that the number has ballooned to 60 million downloads.
This makes it easily one of the most successful Web app platform launches in the history of the Internet, and certainly in the briefer history of the mobile Web.
Now, suppose a single programmer creates an app and puts it on iPhone App Store, and it proves extremely popular. Most programmers won't know how to scale that infrastructure, which is why Morph's opportunity is big.
Indeed, Morph hopes to tap the rabid application programming base for the iPhone to help programmers target the over 5 million iPhone users worldwide.
I believe PAAS providers such as Morph can do a fine job of gaining traction by folding programmers' applications under its wing and letting them flourish.
The key, of course, will be uptime. We just got a taste of what happens when Google's Apps go down in the cloud. Morph, which is just starting out, can't afford such disasters.
In the meantime, Morph Labs has created an iPhone developer information center to support iPhone Web app developers.