13 April 2010

iPhone, the platform most hated by developers

The new TOS for the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 introduces additional restrictions on how developers can create applications for the device. Any application must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine. In other words: no cross compilers. Cross compilers provide a single development environment that compiles a single code base to multiple platforms such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. This saves developers hundreds and thousands of hours of development time they would otherwise have to spend creating multiple code bases. The biggest company affected is (natch) Adobe and their upcoming release of Creative Suite which adds a much-touted Flash-to-iPhone compiler. Several smaller, but no less important, tool makers are affected as are the many developers that make a living off of games and whatnot written using those applications. Developers are now faced with the choice of supporting multiple code bases or being locked in to iPhone development.

Apple's choice, if we can divine intent, was a strategic move to lock developers in to the iPhone over other mobile platforms. Cross compiler companies' choice is to lock developers into their cross compiler over other, single platform compilers. Developers are offered a clear benefit by choosing the latter's lock in, not so with the former's.

I don't have a dog in this race, but I'm a developer and love the tech and social aspects of our mobile web present and future. Apple can do whatever it wants with the iPhone/Pad, just as Microsoft did whatever it wanted years ago to attempt to lock in developers with the Visual J++ mutation of Java. However, it's important to note the costs developers should consider when choosing the route of lock in. Short-term gains may have long-term drawbacks.

Some reading:

Geeks insist the iPad is for "their moms" to use as they stand in line to purchase one (or more) for themselves. This self-deceit is used to justify the purchase of what would otherwise be considered a grossly limited netbook. When developers choose to develop on the iPhone for the chance to get rich (many do), they also choose to navigate the capricious business dictates of Apple. Developers generally don't seek out arbitrary corporate limitations when choosing projects either fun or profitable, but with "do what works" as a common mantra, neither are they an overly principled bunch. We'll see if Android benefits from this.

[ posted by sstrader on 13 April 2010 at 12:25:58 AM in Phones , Programming | tagged android, iphone, mobile development ]
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