Why does Steve Jobs insult us?
Like many others I am nervously and anxiously awaiting the last couple of weeks that remain until the iPhone is released in all of it’s glory. I am keeping up with the blogs, podcasts, news, keynotes and every little bit of information that I can gobble up on the subject.
One of the most interesting things I found from the initial demonstration of it, is that King Jobs insisted that this was NOT carrying a stripped down version of Mac OS X. This was the full fledged, complete with bells and whistles version of Mac OS X. They did some work for the user interface and a couple of custom applications to fit the form factor, but in essence the underlying operating system were the same. As a developer (and nerd) I immediately had a vision: I could run all of my favorite applications on this slim and sexy device. I could have all of the stuff I wanted on the go. It was almost something out of the page of a science fiction book.
Lessons have been learned in the past about third party software. Sadly they tend to break and ruin the experience which was very carefully developed for the base platform. And mobile computing platforms are not the exception. Anyone that has had a Palm or Windows Mobile cell phone can probably concur and share a couple of horror stories. There is simply no way to control this 100%.
As a new product, it is utterly important for Apple that the iPhone make the best impression possible. They have an unbelievable amount of hype behind this device. Once you promise the moon and the stars it is impossible to deliver upon that promise, but you try to get as close as possible anyway. Doing as much as possible to maintain the usability and stability of the phone itself is a very important factor in this respect. If third party applications are permitted unto the phone, this could (and probably will) lead to some crashes here and there. Jobs has publicly stated a scenario where part of ATT’s network would come tumbling down due to an application on one of the phones. I think this is a drastic exaggeration. Yet, it may become troublesome for them. This will lead to higher support costs, due to applications that don’t generate them any income. Not to mention the legions of unhappy customers which will probably blame Apple for the frustrating experience.
On the other side of this discussion, the iPhone is an excellent platform for delivering a wide range of applications. While the applications that Apple distributes are always very sexy, have an excellent user interface and are generally very popular, they don’t fulfill all needs. The phone will come with 11 pre-installed applications. All developed by Apple. It is fairly safe to assume that in the near future Apple will continue to release other applications which can be executed on their product. What if I want something else? What if I want to consume media in a format that is not supported by the available applications? What if I just want to tinker away at it?
This would also contribute to adding more developers to the Mac platform. If it really is the same base operating system, applications could be easily ported from the mac pc, to the phone and vice versa. You could interest developers in developing for the phone, and have them stick around for the other platforms. It would only help the Mac developer community to grow. Not that there is a small group of Mac developers, but their numbers are easily dwarfed by Microsoft’s group in comparison.
It would also help to make their phone platform even more popular. I could make any distributed system I want using the phone as the client interface. This gives me great flexibility. I can already dream up a couple of scenarios where this could help out tremendously.
There have been some recent rumors stating that there might be a possibility of an SDK for the device. Sadly King Jobs or Apple PR have never taken a solid stance on the matter to begin with. This just added to the rumor flames.
Then the day arrived. The day of the WWDC conference. Where we have been promised to get more enticing details on the beloved phone. Let me jump straight to the point: Regarding to this much anticipated issue Mr. Jobs responded: “We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of the iPhone so developers can write great apps for it, but keep the iPhone secure. […] we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone. […] And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. […] They’re secure, and they run securely sandboxed on the iPhone. And guess what, there’s no SDK you need! You’ve got everything you need if you can write modern web apps”. (From Gizmodo. For full article click here).
I’ve heard opinions on this matter that qualify this statement as “patronizing” or “condescending”. Let me add my own two cents. How about INSULTING?! Tell me that you will not develop and SDK for security reasons, but I can always run web apps on the phone. I will feel bummed out, but will ultimately understand their posture and try to make the best of it. Sticking a web app in my face, assuming I’m stupid, and telling me this is just as good as and SDK? Sure, let’s make a web app! I can access the phone’s wi-fi, bluetooth, multi touch and other hardware on it, right? I can have applications that run offline right? My app can live independent from the cloud, right? I can consume media that is not supported by Apple’s application standards, right? WRONG. They gave me Flash and AJAX (with whom I’m already pissed off to begin with), and told me it’s better than an SDK. At a develpers conference no less. Where people with half a brain, that actually understand half of the specs that are put on the slide show sit. C’mon Jobs! I expected more from you.
Yes, there are a bunch of great web apps. Innovation in web applications is great. Yes, Google Gears is the coolest thing sinced individually wrapped slice cheese for web developers, because it might automagically turn them into real application developers. So please don’t comment saying these things. They are old news. The fact of the matter is simple: A web application is a web application. It does not replace my local counterpart. I don’t care how cool, or fast, or interesting it looks.
Jobs has done an unparalleled job in the past of swaying the masses in his favor. He has a cult following like few other communities in the industry. He is a master in the art, and I will not try to chip away at that. One simple miscalculation though. It’s one thing to assume your users are stupid. That is very necessary for application development. I do it with every new application I build. It is quite another to say it in their face.
Will less iPhones be sold? I highly doubt it. Will I still buy mine? Sad, but probable. Yet Apple has one more unhappy camper to add to their list.