Thursday, April 8, 2010

iPhone SDK 4.0

Posted by Hidayat Hidayat at 12:18 PM
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.


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