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iPhone reigns at Apple design awards

So much for widgets

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WWDC The iPhone's ascent as a full-fledged development environment was in evidence Tuesday night when the 2009 Apple Design Awards were announced at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

Since they were instituted in 1997 as the Human Interface Design Excellence Awards - and nicknamed the Heidi's - the Apple Design Awards have been an annual exercise and a good way to gauge the focus of the Apple Developer community. In 2007, for example, iPhone apps were still a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye - and a subway-scheduling dashboard widget named The BART Widget was among the winners.

Does anyone code widgets anymore? Thought not.

Last year, awards were handed out to two iPhone web apps created using Apple's original - and highly restrictive - iPhone web-centric development scheme. At the same event, however, iPhone Developer Showcase awards were also bestowed on a handful of full-fledged but unreleased iPhone apps - unreleased because the 2008 awards event was held in June and the iTunes App Store didn't launch until July.

This year the success of the iPhone Developer Program was celebrated - there were, for example, more iPhone awards than Mac OS X awards: six to five. The reason for the award inflation is simple: last year a mere 1,700 iPhone web apps existed. This year there are more than 50,000 apps in the iTunes apps store. For the iPhone, it's been a hell of a year - and the latest Apple Design Awards event put an exclamation mark after that inarguable statement.

In past years, awards were handed out in specific categories - best game, best developer tool, best scientific computing solution, and the like. This year, that scheme was dropped, and the winners were simply grouped into "showcases," with the exception of the student winners and one as-yet-unreleased iPhone app.

iPhone awards

iPhone Developer Showcase:

  • MLB at Bat 2009 1.0.1 - MLB.com
    An impressive array of deep-tech capabilities was used to create this baseball-lover's delight from a deep-pockets developer.
  • Postage 1.0 - Rogue Sheep
    An attractive, easy-to-use interface distinguishes this straightforward design-an-online-postcard-and-mail-it app.
  • Topple 2 1.1 - ngmoco:)
    The iPhone's accelerometer is used to good effect in this Blockhead deriviative for casual gamers.
  • Tweetie 1.3.1 - atebits
    If you really must tweet, here's an elegantly interfaced way to keep up with your twittering friends and colleagues

Best iPhone Student App:

  • Wooden Labyrinth 3D 1.2.1 (iTunes link) - Elias Pietil
    There are a ton of roll-the-ball games available on the iPhone, but this student-written example has one of the most-refined interfaces.

Best iPhone OS 3.0 Beta App:

  • AccuTerra 1.0.0 beta - AccuTerra
    This hiking and biking route-finder and experience-sharer exploits iPhone 3.0 technologies such as in-app payments and push notification.

Mac OS X awards

Mac OS X Leopard Developer Showcase:

  • Billings 3.0.5 - Marketcircle
    Lots of apps help small businesses manage their time and billings, but few offer such a broad array of options and attractive invoice templates.
  • BoinxTV 1.3 - Boinx Software
    The developers of this "TV sudio on your Mac" used an impressive array of Leopard componets to wring tons of performance and functionality out of that OS.
  • Things 1.1 - Cultured Code
    Simple and easy-to-use are the ways to go for personal task managers, and this app's developers built their feature-full, AppleScriptable offering with that in mind.
  • Versions 1.0.3 - Sofa
    The Subversion open-source version control system is insanely useful but a total bee-atch to use. Versions puts a clean Mac GUI between developers and Subversion.

Best Mac OS X Student Product:

  • Fontcase v1.1.3 - Pieter Omvlee
    This insanely comprehensive and easy-to-use font manager was created by a single Dutch student. Hire him the first chance you get.

That's this year's crop of Apple Design Award winners. Expect next year's Apple judges to put the spotlight on developers who exploit the capabilities of the iPhone 3G S and iPhone Software 3.0, plus new technologies in Mac OS X Snow Leopard such as Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL.

Or, it's just possible that a new category of awards will open up, focused on software written for the long-rumored Apple tablet/netbook/media-pad/ebook/whatever. ®

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