Thursday, April 8, 2010

iPhone SDK 4.0

I am in the process of downloading the iPhone SDK 4.0 beta 1. So, like most of you, I haven't actually seen the new APIs, just the presentation by Steve, Phil, and Scott earlier today. If I did know more, I wouldn't be able to tell you because of the NDA.

For the most part, I'm excited about the changes that are coming. I've used Android's "multitasking", and I think that Apple has been 100% right not to just port the workstation model of "multitasking" to the phone. It's hard to say how well these new "multitasking" APIs will meet our needs as developers, but the best that I can tell from the presentation, Apple seems to have struck a good balance. Battery life can really suffer with a traditional "multitasking" approach, as I've discovered using my Nexus One. Only time will tell for sure, but I feel good about these APIs.

Folders look to be implemented well. This is not really a developer feature, so there's not much for me to say there other than it looks like a great solution to a problem that people assume was trivial. It wasn't. Both multitasking and presentation of large volumes of data are very different problems on a small, handheld device than they are on a computer workstation, and I'm glad that Apple's putting some thought into how to add these features intelligently rather than throwing in every feature that any customer requests. Companies that do that are using what I call a "kitchen sink approach" to software development, and the long-term results of that approach are not often great.

GameCenter? I have mixed feelings about it. I probably will never use it as a consumer. I'm just not much of a gamer. I love the creative process that goes into creating games, but just don't spend much time playing, and I don't really care about phony awards and accomplishments. But, I know a lot of people do, and this could be quite a boon for iPhone and iPad gaming.

Unfortunately, there are a number of competing services run by people who jumped into iPhone development early, companies like OpenFeint, who are now finding themselves in the undesirable position of trying to compete with 800 pound gorilla that is Apple. Not that this is a new tactic for Apple, nor is there necessarily anything wrong with what they've done, but it saddens me a little nonetheless.

iAds is another feature that I have mixed feelings about. If you have a free app with ads, this is probably a great thing for you. But, it's just a hard thing for me to get excited about advertisements, no matter how spiffy they look. Well, at least they're not Flash.

Overall, I'm excited and positive about this update. There was one thing about the presentation tough, that I felt was a negative. I thought some of the answers given during the Q&A period were just outright disingenuous. The most blatant case in point was when Steve was asked about distributing apps without the App Store, His response was to point out that Android has a "porn app store that your kids can get to", and then state that Apple "didn't want to go there". Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot?

Kids can get to any number of porn web sites on a Mac, iPad or iPhone.

Apple does absolutely have a right to do this: It's their walled garden. I just wish they'd be more upfront about their reasons when asked rather than giving stupid responses like "think of the children" (which has already become a bit of a joke from its use in censorship discussions). Kids are, generally speaking, more comfortable with technology than their parents. Kids can find porn if they're determined to do so. There's not a thing you can do to prevent it if they decide they want it, but to the extent that things should be done, it should be done by their parents. This is not Apple's job, nor any other corporation's job. It's not even the government's job. It's mine and, if you have kids, yours. It's also not a valid reason to give us the ability to run Apps that haven't been approved by the Mothership.

If Steve had stood up on stage and said "we want our 30% cut, so that's why you can't distribute outside the App Store", it would have felt like it was an honest answer. If he had said "we want to control the experience in any way we can", I would have bought it. I might not have liked it, but those would have felt like honest answers.

The answer we got today felt like a big "fuck you" disguised as a smarmy "we know better than you".

The next time a client gets mad because an ad hoc build won't run for them, I'm going to tell them that it won't work so kids can't get porn. I doubt I'll be able to pull it off as well as Steve did, though.



11 comments:

bobh said...

I don't have kids but a guy at work made the decision to buy a Mac with OSX over a PC (with XP at the time) because he said the parental controls were much better. So maybe reducing the porn bandwidth to kids is or historically was an issue with Apple and Steve Jobs. But as you point out, it could simply be greed for a 30% "cut" that motivates him. I am in no position of knowing.

pippin said...

However often Apple stretches the "battery life" argument against full scale multitasking I believe there is a more important one: App performance and interdependence.
I have used a number of other phones with Apps, most notably Symbian and WinMobile and both suffer HEAVILY from background App interaction.

On iPhone, an App tested in the foreground will usually run. Bad development done on other Apps doesn't harm and you can use the memory available.

I believe this has helped a lot in making the App Store such a great success - for the simple reason that it helps limiting adverse effects from badly written Apps to exactly this App while at the same time making development much easier,

I hope all this gets preserved by the 4.0 "multitasking" model.

MomentEye said...

I think there is a legitimate concern that Steve/Apple have relating to porn and the perception of their product. There were lots of overblown stories about porn on the PSP as well.

In particularly with the iPad as a new device there was every chance of some media flamebaiter hitting the air with iPorn Hysteria.

At the moment if you Google "iPhone Porn" you get lots of hits on how Apple are being unnecessarily fussy and anti-porn. (Explanation of why it wont work below the fold)

I say, well played.

Jeff LaMarche said...

bobh:

I think parental controls are great. Which is I don't understand why they don't use them. The mere fact that they have an infrastructure in place to let people choose what they want to see really works against their "it's to protect the kids" argument.

Pippin:

Yes, but I don't think this is going to be an issue with the new 4.0 multitasking APIs. I can't say for certain.

MomentEye:

I didn't say that they didn't have a legitimate concern, but that's completely orthogonal to bypassing the app store. Sure, if they let porn on the App Store, some people are going to associate it with Apple, but if they allow a mechanism for third party distribution, nobody's going to associate that with Apple any more than they associate existing porn websites with Apple simply because they make Safari.

The simple fact is, you can use HTML5 to create web porn apps that will work beautifully on the iPad, so they're restricting what all developers can do so that a certain class of undesirable have one less avenue available to them? Seems like a poor tradeoff.

Alin said...

Apple prohibits selling apps in other stores but only if those apps were written using their tools (SDK, XCode) aka have agreed with their rules. If someone is that good he can do apps without that and find a way to sell them.

I mean, they invested tons of money, time and thinking in this whole iPhone business and want to get something back.

On the other side is Android (Nexus One) that although could take advantage of all the iPhone experience didn't. See your post about Nexus One :).

And really on-topic: 4.0 (SDK and OS) looks very nice and seems very good to me as a user and programmer.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Alin:

No, he can't, except using web technologies or requiring your customers to jailbreak their phones.

I agree that Apple deserves to "get something bacK", what I'm complaining about is this whole red herring about kids getting porn. It's a laughable excuse for why they're controlling the platform. There are plenty of valid reasons for doing it, whether you agree with it or not, but that is not one of them.

DMThomas said...

On the Game Center part, this post on Kotaku talks about it. http://kotaku.com/5513287/gamers-of-the-iphone-your-attention-please

Specifically there is a section where it seems like Aurora Feint has been working with Apple on it.

"Jason Citron, CEO of Aurora Feint, welcomed the news of Apple's Game Center saying that the service would work with their own OpenFeint gaming service. And Game Center will also support OpenFeint X, a virtual goods management system for free to play games.

All 19 million of their users will automatically get the new OpenFeint X accounts as it continues to roll out, Citron said.

"OpenFeint X is currently built on top of OpenFeint and in the future it will also sit on Apple's Game Center social graph, achievements and leaderboards so developers and gamers don't miss a step," he wrote. "Apple is a key partner and we are delighted that they have validated the first half of the OpenFeint vision and we can now fulfill the second half: OpenFeint X and Virtual Goods based Social Games. Our developers can be 100 percent assured that we will continue to invest in OpenFeint so our 1500 live games, 2000 games in development and 19M players have a flawless experience with OpenFeint and Game Center.""

Sam said...

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cosplay is big. Very big. China Wholesale More than half of all kids at anime conventions these days are cosplaying cosplay costumes.

Relax, cheap cosplay costumes it’s nothing scary. Cosplay is just the Japanese word for dressing up in costume. naruto cosplay You know, like you do on Halloween... cosplay naruto except if you spent four months making your costume, Kingdom Hearts Cosplay and made all of the props yourself instead of buying everything out of a package at the temporary local Halloween Superstore cheap cosplay.

In an indication of just how big the international cosplay community is getting, anime cosplay May will see the launch of a new, English-language cosplay magazine anime cosplay costumes out of Europe called Cosplay Gen. wholesale costume The 72-page issue #1 Japanese School Uniform will include tons of photos, interviews, profiles, DIY tutorials and a pull-out poster. Final Fantasy Cosplay Pre-order your copy now and receive a free issue of Otaku Magazine Bleach Cosplay.

amar said...

don't you think, this beta is the most unplanned by apple. This is lacking the most basic things like ipod library name index, a problems in photo library. And the most awesome thing is at&t is more efficient with iPhone now ! thank god now att people will stop saying the same reason for any problem (att towers are down in your area please give 72 hours ).

Sam said...

Thank you for your article. Then let's see something about cosplay. You must be interested in it.
Cosplay Get Its Own Magazine: Cosplay Gen
cosplay is big. Very big. China Wholesale More than half of all kids at anime conventions these days are cosplaying cosplay costumes.

Relax, cheap cosplay costumes it’s nothing scary. Cosplay is just the Japanese word for dressing up in costume. naruto cosplay You know, like you do on Halloween... cosplay naruto except if you spent four months making your costume, Kingdom Hearts Cosplay and made all of the props yourself instead of buying everything out of a package at the temporary local Halloween Superstore cheap cosplay.

In an indication of just how big the international cosplay community is getting, anime cosplay May will see the launch of a new, English-language cosplay magazine anime cosplay costumes out of Europe called Cosplay Gen. wholesale costume The 72-page issue #1 Japanese School Uniform will include tons of photos, interviews, profiles, DIY tutorials and a pull-out poster. Final Fantasy Cosplay Pre-order your copy now and receive a free issue of Otaku Magazine Bleach Cosplay.

h4ns said...

What youre saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I also love the images you put in here. They fit so well with what youre trying to say. Im sure youll reach so many people with what youve got to say.

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