With Apple set to provide details this week of its planned iPhone software development kit, even developers of desktop Mac products are looking forward to new business opportunities in the mobile space.
Alykhan Jetha, CEO of Marketcircle, a developer of Mac OS X applications, said, “The anticipation is very high within the larger Mac developer space-including us here at Marketcircle-not only because this is a Cocoa/OS X based-mobile platform, but also because the interface paradigm is new and has some exciting, unexplored potential.”
Jetha said, “There is concrete proof that the iPhone is everywhere-in almost every country on Earth. … The iPhone’s a great device, and opening that device up will create a new level of greatness. I think Apple and developers like us can bank on increased market share both for the device and the Mac.”
“There are many apps already [for jail-broken iPhones],” he continued, “and so as soon as we get the SDK, those apps will become official.”
“We are absolutely raring to go,” said Wil Shipley, owner of development company Delicious Monster.
“Developers recognize that the iPhone is the first pocketable general-use, always-on, Internet-connected ubiquitous computing device. This is going to be nothing short of a revolution,” Shipley said. “I’ve already started making a list of apps that I want to make, and am literally giving away some ideas because I have more than I can possibly do.”
“I’m currently developing an application for the iPhone, so I and my entire five-engineer team are eagerly awaiting the announcement,” said Mike Lee, head and “chief primate” of software development group United Lemur. “I, for one, have declared Thursday a holiday, and intend to kick up my heels, pop some corn and tune in,” he said.
“I don’t know a developer who’s not interested in the iPhone, and most are very excited about it,” Lee added. “Some are already working on iPhone applications; others are considering making their next project for the iPhone.
“Everyone is thinking about how they are going to adopt the iPhone into their current plans. I, myself, am benefiting greatly, as a lot of engineers are willing to volunteer their time to work on United Lemur projects just to have a chance to dip their toes in iPhone development,” Lee said.
One often-cited bar to widespread corporate adoption of the iPhone has been lack of native support for the proprietary Microsoft Exchange messaging system. Though iPhones work with any IMAP or POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail through its own mail client, some corporations insist on Exchange-centric features and installations.
Could an open iPhone SDK bring this about?
Consumer or enterprise? Free or fee?
“I think that the key thing that the SDK brings to the table for people wanting to tie Exchange in to the phone is the ability to tap into not only iPhone’s Mail application, but also its calendar and contacts database,” said Marketcircle’s Jetha.
“Microsoft’s Exchange supports a Web-based protocol that allows applications to push and pull all exchange data-calendars, contacts, folders, mail, and attachments,” he said. “The protocol supports both push and pull models of access. Using the protocol and some software on the iPhone, a developer could move data to appropriate locations on the iPhone as it arrives, to the calendar or contacts, for example, and post back to the Exchange server as that data is updated on the phone.
“Even without Exchange support, which I think is coming, but I’m not sure when, we can infer that with an SDK, enterprises will be more interested because they can easily put together custom applications. Back in the NeXT days, Cocoa was targeted at enterprises and clearly showed faster times to market. The SDK will allow software developers [in the enterprise or otherwise] to create great value for their users.”
However, Jetha said he hoped that Apple will continue to stay focused on the needs “of the end users and not enterprise purchasing committees. The iPhone’s appeal to enterprise users is a side effect of Apple’s focus on great user experiences.”
United Lemur’s Lee echoed the sentiment: “[E]nterprise users I’ve spoken to have listed the lack of third-party applications as the main, if not only, thing holding them back from adopting the iPhone. The only real question is what Software Update has to do with any of this. Any conjecture on my part would be just that.”
As for the yet-unanswered question of whether Apple will charge a fee for either the SDK or distributing iPhone applications, Marketcircle’s Jetha said, “Cost or no cost, it is absolutely worth buying in. I predict that within a few years, the number of iPhones and iPod Touches will surpass the number of Macs.
“Mac business software such as [Marketcircle’s] Daylite already syncs with iPhone and iPod Touch. So at Marketcircle, we’re SDK-watchers and also keen to contribute to the growing Apple product and Mac-based business solutions market for sure.”
Gus Mueller, head of small developer company Flying Meat, said the iPhone SDK would “certainly” be worth a buy-in. “I already pay 500 bucks a year for an ADC membership. As long as it isn’t crazy-expensive, I’m probably willing to pay it.”
“It would be unlike Apple to have a fee to develop apps,” Shipley said, “but they may have some hurdles to getting into their store. Even if there were a fee, it’d be worth it for developers to just buy it, but I doubt it’d be worth the bad will for Apple.”