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Think twice about iPhone development

Inside the mobile matrix, part 3

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

All signs, then, indicate not just the popularity of the iPhone, but also keenness among developers to experiment with the device and a hunger among end users for iPhone applications.

iPhone hang ups

It's not all good news, though. The huge amount of uncertainty that surrounds the iPhone and Apple's attempt to rigidly control the environment are facts that should cause any developer to think twice before committing.

From mighty SAP to the tiniest software vendor, all have had their wings clipped running native applications on the iPhone or been forced to needlessly re-work applications to make them run in the Safari browser.

Staff from other ISVs - REAL Software and Opera - have spoken about support for the iPhone (REAL Basic and the Opera browser for the iPhone, respectively), but - officially at least - the companies are making no public commitments to the device.

For those who did the unthinkable and pressed ahead regardless, Apple rather helpfully released a firmware update that appeared to have been engineered to specifically render hacked phones useless turning them into iBricks.

The struggle continues. Developers appear to have maintained the upper hand as they have consistently been capable of improving upon their original efforts thereby restoring functionality of bricked phones. They have also done so regularly and with such increasing rapidity that they are very nearly current with the releases of phone firmware upgrades.

Betting one's time, money and business on outwitting Apple won't be to everyone's tastes, however.

If you can get past that, arguably the biggest unknown is the planned iPhone SDK itself and how much power and flexibility it provides. If it turns out to be too structured (hampering creativity) or the terms too restrictive (hampering financial gain) it is highly likely developers that have already met with success doing it their own way will continue to operate without Apple.

This, of course, sets the scene for more friction with Apple and the potential emergence of an unofficial iPhone development community, which is unsupported by Apple and that constantly has its firmware reset.

Additionally, if the SDK is restrictive, then it makes it much more likely the people currently using the applications these developers have created will stand by the programmers that have done right by them so far.

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