It’s the SDK Stupid or “It’s The API, Stupid” Once Again

Stud mac developer Wil Shipley’s not only a superstar programmer but an entertaining writer as well. Today we have some choice quotes on why he wont be releasing any AJAX iPhone web apps soon. It sort of reminds me of the debate on why, despite the lack of polished features, the API makes Twitter a clear winner versus Pownce (though it’s too early to tell for real).

I don’t trust any “SDK” made by a company that won’t use it themselves. Where are all of Apple’s AJAX apps for the iPhone? Anyone? (*chirp*) The iPhone apps are not written in JavaScript—or at least no JavaScript I know. Show me the secret JavaScript commands to get at all that CoreAnimation goodness you guys use, and to get at the Bluetooth and 802.11 and multitouch and local storage, and then maybe… well, no, actually, I still don’t want to write code in JavaScript.

To get an idea of where Wil could take the iPhone if there was a decent API is drool worthy:

+ I want my customers to be able to scan in barcodes with the iPhone’s camera… nope.
+ I want them to be able to wirelessly send these newly-scanned items to the base computer… nope.
+ I want them to be able to scroll through a page full of beautiful renderings of all their books… well, ok, I could (and will) do this by publishing to a web page, but that requires the user to have a web server somewhere, AND wait for her books to download over EDGE, instead of having them locally.
+ I’d like them to be able to re-sort their libraries with CoreAnimation effects, delete books with a flick, etc. Nope nope nope.
+ I’d like for two people who have iPhones to be able to click a button and have the iPhones quickly wirelessly compare their likes and dislikes, and pop up the resulting matches. “Hey, you both love these films… here’s some recommendations Bob has for Sally based on your shared likes, and here’s some recommendations Sally has for Bob”.... nooooooope.

Call Me Fishmeal.: iPhone’s AJAX SDK: No, thank you.

Not even Steve’s distortion field can cover up the inadequacy of not having a proper SDK for the iPhone. It’s something that can take the iPhone to the next level. For example, the wi-fi capabilities supplemented by a custom Skype application would make it a killer (although I can see where the phone companies get scared).

One of the reasons why Palm refuses to die despite many near death experiences is most likely their liberal approach to letting third party developers extend it with more functionality and basically hack their device to death. Ditto for the very rare Newton PDA from Apple’s dark ages.

The iPhone reportedly comes with a hefty 700MB OS X lite installed in it that gives us a close to full feature set (minus copy and paste!!!) so obviously it’s more an issue of corporate politics (internally or maybe with partners like AT&T). At the end of the day a phone is a phone is a phone but opening up the iPhone as a platform would certainly make it a more interesting device that could even be attractive for various business uses.

I don’t think Apple or at least their engineers really want to close off the platform as mobile devices are definitely going to be playing a larger role in the future. However, Apple’s string of successes may awaken Steve’s protective tendencies for a repeat of the past.

Cell phones are really the last frontier as far as ubiquitous connections go and it’s the over-regulation and oligopoly of cell phone carriers that keeps cutting edge technology from letting us truly take hold of all the possibilities offered by mobile platforms and making it all a whole lot cheaper to use (network infrastructure has been a sunk cost for some time yet communications costs have not come down nearly as much).

Rocking and shocking the telecoms once iPhone at a time seems like a long shot but the SDK could be a big blow to the telecoms that finally give us true control of our conversations.

Twitter v Pownce: It’s The API, Stupid | New Web Order – Nik Cubrilovic