Developers cautiously optimistic about iPhone OS 3.0
Industry analysts see many strengths in the upcoming iPhone software upgrade, but the developers Macworld spoke with were more cautiously optimistic about the release.
The optimism comes from all of the new APIs—Application Programming Interface, or programming hooks provided by Apple—included with iPhone Software 3.0. Developers will be able to activate peer-to-peer connections, take advantage of in-app sales, embed Google maps, and control dock connectors, among other things.
"Add-on sales from inside the app is awesome for us," said Doug Wright, president of Sonoma Wire Works.
Wright's company makes 4Track, an audio recording application designed for musicians, which he said will benefit from selling drum beats, amps, and effects to his customers without having them leave the app.
However, there are still questions about how this will all work. You'll definitell be able to buy add-ons for the app you are currently running, but what about when you are on the App Store in iTunes? Will the apps show available add-ons? Will add-ons be shown separately from the parent application? Can you purchase add-ons in iTunes or only from inside the app?
The new business model is doing more than just giving developers another source of revenue, it's actually turning the tide for some of them.
"The equation that balances development effort with expected income was getting pretty brutal," said independent iPhone developer, Jason Harris. "I'd been getting pretty close to giving up on iPhone development due to the sinking prices that applications were selling for. The new business models included in this release definitely bring me back into the game."
With competition from companies such as Microsoft, Google, RIM, and Nokia opening their own stores, something to reignite developer interest in the iPhone platform is exactly what Apple needs.
"The simple fact is that it is dead simple to create a relatively elegant application for the iPhone without much of a learning curve," said Harris. "I don't know much about APIs for other mobile platforms, but my understanding is that the development and deployment cycles are significantly more complex and for no other reason, Apple is going to continue to do well despite the presence of competing stores."
Even with the optimism for the new software, developers are still having problems with Apple's approach to the App Store. Apple touted 25,000 apps in its store and the fact that 98 percent of accepted apps were approved within a week of being submitted by the developer. Yet developers have been asking Apple for more transparency into the review process since the store first opened, and to date those calls have gone unanswered.
"Apple is still having problems with the opacity of their App Store review process and submission guidelines," said Harris. "If they don't fix this, it will eventually kill the platform."
David Barnard, owner of App Cubby (makes of Trip Cubby, Gas Cubby, and Health Cubby software) agrees. "I'm extremely excited about all the new features and development tools in 3.0, but that excitement has been tempered a bit as I sit down and look at the financial viability of adding each potential feature to my apps," he said. "The App Store is still a very challenging place to do business."
All of the developers expect to see a flurry of new, cool apps available to customers when the new software is released to iPhone and iPod touch this summer—good news for consumers.