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Think twice about iPhone development

Inside the mobile matrix, part 3

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In this, the third and final installment in our series looking at a trio of potential, new mobile development platforms, I'm going to focus on what I view as the real dark horse in this race: the iPhone.

Why is the iPhone a dark horse? Because, at the time of writing, for a device with so much potential and "cool" about it relatively little is known about what can be done with platform from a development perspective.

Questions remain about nearly every aspect of official iPhone development, from licensing to physical layer access, to how much of the current unofficial developer force will migrate their efforts over to the official release versus continuing on their current path developing for jailbroken iPhones.

Talking telephone numbers

If you're a developer looking for an addressable market, then the level of coverage surrounding the iPhone is a good thing. The iPhone was the subject of one of the industry's largest and most aggressive PR campaigns.

Unless you've been plane wrecked on a desert island with no radio, no TV, and without even a single magazine washing up, then as Fake Steve Jobs put it so eloquently: "Dude, I invented the friggin' iPhone. Have you heard of it?"

This is potentially good news for developers. As in my last two mobile assessments one of our primary questions you should ask prior to choosing a platform relates to the installed user base you feel is likely to want to use the application you've created. As of October, 1.1 million Americans owned iPhones, with the device becoming the US's fourth best selling mobile phone for the third quarter.

Further figures are not available, partly because Apple has placed a gagging order on carriers releasing data. The goal was, though, for 1.4 million units sold by end of year, suggesting that either numbers have not been met or that Apple only wants SteveO to deliver the "surprise" market share stats during his Macworld keynote speech in San Francisco, California, this week.

Additionally, we also know large numbers of people were content to shell huge amounts of cash for their iPhone and calling plans, and many proceeded to put that hardware at risk by hacking the devices to run an ever increasing number of third-party applications created by "black hat" developers that have - to this point - confounded Apple and its US wireless carrier of choice, AT&T.

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