Quick thoughts on the iPhone SDK
I know the iPhone SDK is basically old news now, but having recently got my iPhone, I have a few thoughts of my own.
First, I have downloaded it, however I haven't used it other than messing with the simulator for web development. Initially, I was disappointed with the lack of the interface builder, though they did recently update it with interface builder support. Hopefully some of the sample code gets updated to show how to do it that way. I've done interfaces-by-code and it is not really fun. My experience was with Qt in C++ on Linux back around 2000/2001.
What I really think will make a difference is the iTunes App Store. There have been a lot of complains about it, and about the application process, the $99 fee, and their somewhat selective approvals of applicants. The blog posts I've read about it pointed mostly to the processes for approval and such still being put into place, so the initial 'rejections' were more of a postponement. The $99 sucks, true, but I don't think it is that bad. Compared to the development tools I've bough on my own before, it isn't bad, and its cost can get made up with the benefits of the iTunes App Store.
So what makes the store so awesome? Have you ever tried to find and download applications for a mobile device before?
I hadn't downloaded much on my Blackberry, but back when I had various Windows Mobile/Smartphone devices, it was painful. Really, mobile applications are in a sad state for distribution. Sure, you can easily install them with with ActiveSync, but I'd find a lot of the programs by digging around various forums sites, sometimes with the latest version buried on page 24 of a thread that spans a year or so. Others were on websites that looked like crap and didn't inspire trust in putting this app on your phone. And there was a lot of old material, such as application list sites put together by someone a year ago, littered with Adsense trying to make some dough. On many developers sites, would find out dated, abandoned programs, not updated for the latest version, or maybe designed for one device vs another, since devices vary so much (ie, XV6700 vs Moto Q).
When I purchased my iPhone recently, I had another glimpse of this when looking around for information on iPhone apps. I was mostly looking for iPhone web applications, and there were a bunch of iPhone application list sites, some with pretty old apps and links that no longer worked, etc. I also was researching exactly what Jailbreaking did, but was spread across forums/blogs linking to each other.
It sucks. It is not customer friendly. The App Store changes all that. All applications are located in one central places, easy to find, plainly simple to deploy. There is an entrance fee (the $99), so yo know the developers are likely more serious. The 30% cut on sales does suck, yes, but you can still have free applications, so there is still a market for hobbyists.
Companies that actually want to make money off the applications get a great tool as well. It provides several crucial things to them. It helps their potential customers find their programs by acting as a directory. It serves as a deployment and notification system by handling the installation and upgrades for them (ie, push the new version to iTunes and everyone gets it). And finally, it solves e-commerce for them. Yes, 30% sounds like a lot, and is a little on the big side, but the App Store will eliminate the need for their own store/shopping cart system, credit card processing, merchant account, or need to go through someone else for that. Additionally, customers would be much more trusting as I'd expect Apple to handle billing them.
Overall, I hope there is more progress like this in the mobile arena.