Daniel Tull: Blog

Tomorrows iPhone "Roadmap" Announcement

Wednesday, 05 March 2008

I’m going to talk about the event tomorrow which will surely announce what iPhone/iPod touch owners have been waiting for: the iPhone SDK, that’s Software Development Kit for those that don’t know. An SDK allows developers to build upon foundations to create pieces of software in a quicker time, which will often look and feel better than software built without an SDK.

Everyone loves predictions and here are mine:

The SDK will be announced tomorrow and released as beta

It will use Xcode and Interface Builder, like many Mac developers already know and will be available to everyone with a free ADC account. Yes, everyone (except the Linux guys… sorry). Windows users will get an Xcode and Interface Builder that can create iPhone applications too.

This would be a great positive. Firstly it increases the number of overall iPhone developers, creating a platform which many can create for. Secondly, it lets those developers experience Xcode, if they like it, they may just start building for Mac OS X proper, and that would mean buying a Mac. This would be the iPod halo for developers.

The SDK will allow the developer to access the multi-touch features, accelerometer (to determine which way up it is), network connections. I wonder whether they will allow access to the dock connector, I hope so.

A major iPhone software update will be released

A few changes need to be made as I see, mostly to do with security. As far as I know the iPhone software runs all processes as root, which essentially means all software has access to everything on the device.

Obviously third party apps need to be restricted so they don’t mess up your devices settings or worse start sending unwarranted text messages left, right and center. This should be done with a refinement to the iPhone’s users, creating a non-root account for apps to run under. They can’t rely on a restricted distribution model to keep out the viruses.

Software will be distributed through iTunes

This is painfully obvious to me and has been well before rumours started; Apple are a company who like to control everything. The iPod model has worked well: hardware, software and content distribution. Well this is exactly the same situation.

Now the question is whether they will allow all apps to exist, for example a Skype app would surely harm their relationship with the phone carriers? Hopefully they’ll be quite open about what they allow, or they’ll just push people underground (hell there is already an underground in the form of the hacked apps out now) and that will mean Apple isn’t in control of that sector of the market.

There’s been much concern over pricing on the iTunes store. Well the iTunes store also caters for podcasts, which are free, so it’s not unreasonable to think that they would allow for free and open-source apps to go up there. I personally believe that this model couldn’t be better for the developer AND consumer.

Firstly, it allows the developer to have a marketplace without needing a website or payment system. It also allows them to develop the app without the worry of piracy. They needn’t worry about software keys for customers when distributing through iTunes. From the consumer’s point of view, they will get automatic updates through iTunes and a guarantee that the software isn’t a virus.

That’s my big three: Xcode for development: Mac + Win, iTunes for distribution including open source and free software and an iPhone update to the user accounts to allow it to happen. Not ground-breaking predictions, but I think anyone who thinks the SDK will be ground-breaking is kidding themselves completely.

Apple’s major issue with this announcement is that they will get scrutinised. So Apple need to give as much as they can without letting their grip of the system go. If Apple require apps to go through iTunes, as long as anything (within reason - no viruses etc) can get into the catalog, then I’d guess the majority of developers will be happy. If Apple start refusing access to apps they don’t like, they’ll be put in the dog house and the hacking community will resume, leaving Apple completely out of control; Not a position they like to be in.