Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And We're Off...

Last Thursday, Apple announced the iPhone SDK (that's Software Development Kit for you non-techies), and I promptly signed up for developer status. In doing so, I have to comply with an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), so you won't be finding any technical details or code samples in this blog until at least June, but I am going to start writing my high-level impressions of what it's like to develop for the iPhone as I work through it.

I spent the last weekend chugging through over a thousand pages of technical documentation on the iPhone and the iPhone SDK, as well as writing some fairly simple iPhone applications in order to get a feel for the platform. I must admit that I am seriously excited. This is one heck of a mobile platform.

The funny thing is, I've never been excited about "smart phones" before. Not in the slightest. I never cared for Blackberries or Pocket PCs, seeing them always as a way to be further chained to work and nothing more. In my travels, I've met far too many people in the IT world who are slaves to their mobile devices — they don't like them, but feel like they need them. For my purposes, I've always just wanted a phone. A small, tough, easy to use phone. I never wanted a camera in it, I never used the date book or other little tools because, frankly, they were far more trouble then they were worth.

And though I must admit that I experienced a certain amount of techno-lust for the iPhone, I resisted buying one, mostly because I was under a contract with Verizon and I've been fairly happy with Verizon's service. If the iPhone had been available through Verizon, I suspect that I might have bought one the day they came out. As it was, that additional barrier allowed me to accomplish the herculean task of resisting its allure.

Last year, at WWDC, when Steve Jobs announced that sure, we developers all could write applications for the iPhone right away.... by creating web applications, I honestly felt like he had kicked me in the gut. Here, they  had created this amazing, possibly revolutionary new device, and they wouldn't give us developers an opportunity to really help them realize its potential. There was an audible groan when he made this announcement, something that rarely happens inside the RDF

Not too long afterwards, Apple started hinting that a real SDK might be forthcoming, and then later confirmed that it would be.

Needless to say, I have been awaiting Thursday's announcement very anxiously. This time, I was not disappointed. In fact, they exceeded my expectations: I ran right out after watching the videocast and bought myself an iPhone, downloaded the SDK, and started pouring through the pages and pages of really solid technical documentation already available from Apple.

And, though I can't tell you specifics because of the NDA, I can tell you that it is a thing of beauty. It really is. It is an elegant set of tools and libraries and I'm just giddy with excitement over this darn phone. I honestly think that the SDK has the possibility of completely changing people's perception of what a mobile device is, and what a mobile device can do. Some would argue that the iPhone has already done that, but I think the best is yet to come. I believe the iPhone can, and will, replace many special-purpose devices and become, as I heard one geek say, paraphrasing Tolkein, "the One Phone". Sure it was forged not in the fires of Mount Doom by Sauron, but rather in Cupertino by the will of Steve Jobs and the brains of an awful lot of very smart people, but I still think it's an apt analogy.

Several times a day a new idea will hit me for an iPhone app. I haven't been this excited since I discovered Cocoa / Objective C eight years go.

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