I have been absolutely astounded by the spectacular rise in the number of Apps for the iPhone. From 2008’s launch date’s 40 apps to 5000 apps three months later and now more than 50,000 apps as of the turn of Summer 2009. Last time I saw this type of programming support and take-off was with Visual Basic back in the early 19990’s … and VB did not have such an instantaneous app explosion. Credit NYTimes David Pogue for getting this spectacular rise in iPhone Apps right back in March of 2008.
So I decided to take a look at the programming strategy behind iPhone because David only mentions an SDK and lavishes attention rightfully on the other key ingredient for success – the online iPhone App Store. So a little poking around the Apple development site reveals the following:
1)You must first signup for a developer registration;
2)Then access the SDK and gobs of documentation including a good example of your first iPhone App;
3)You will need to come up to speed in Objective C, Cocoa Framework with the help of Interface Builder;
4)You will be working on Leopard OS/x Mac though VMware is working on a Windows Virtual Machine pack running Leopard OS/x- but that appears to be the closest Windows developers can get to iPhone development.
With these helpful hints you are off to developing your own iPhone app. One can think of iPhone Apps as the culmination of two trends in IT and modern economics – Open Source Development using open APIs and the evolution of Mass Production to Mass Customization – where users buys the basic tool [iPhone], and either customize it themselves or have others do the bulk of the work for them. Oops – there is one fly in the ointment here – the source code for iPhone apps is not always available to the end user as in true Open Source Development. That is a key reason developers can charge for their iPhone apps if they so chose. The code for an iPhone app is not readily available for duplication in contrast to all Open Source applications. So now for contrast lets take a look at the Palm Pre App Development Strategy
Palm Pre App Development Strategy
Palm had long been the leader first in PDA – Personal Digital Assitant devices and then married its PDAs to a phone very successfully with its Treo line. But Palm fell behind in two key areas – supporting the Web or Internet and being able to handle the ‘server push’ needed to make mail and instant messaging work well with its Treos. Enter the Palm Pre – a smartphone with all the Web smarts plus credit for a better phone interface than iPhone by most reviewers. WebOS, the Palm operating system is credited with this advantage.
So clearly Palm has taken a much more Open Approach to its app development. Will this pay off in a wide set of apps appearing for The Palm Pre? Well there are some hiccups as the Pre App Stor will be delayed by the full release of the Pre SDK estimated for early September. There will be developers using a pre-release version; but don’t expect Pre apps to take off immediately. But the wider view is that Palm with the Pre has taken a more familiar-to-developers route using Open Source software for the bulk of its SDK and development tools. Will this win over developers ? I suspect given the openess of the tools , the DIY- Do It Yourself and the constant need for Mass Customization, especially in organizations, may tip the balance to Palm over the longer term. It is instructive to note that Google’s Phone SDK Android also has an Open and Web based infrastructure. But its number of apps is paltry in comparison to Apple’s iPhone. Those numbers for Android may pickup substantially in the fall when a number of Android powered Netbooks hit the market. But clearly Apple has a first entrant advantage and it will be fascinating to see if either Palm or Google can catch up with an Open Source approach to their APIs.