Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palm: "I'm not dead... yet"

With HP's announced acquisition of Palm yesterday - the geek press is full "whoa" mode. They're busy speculating on what devices HP will put Palm's "webOS" (yeah, I know - crappy name) and whether or not they'll have an app store like Apple, if HP is going to give Apple a run for its iPhone/iPad money, etc.

Ummmm.... yeah, well... I think the bigger questions is whether or not HP can court developers to make apps for yet ANOTHER mobile operating system with it's own languages, own web store, own ecosystem, etc.

When Palm first announced its webOS in January 2009 - it was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. It's a proprietary GUI on top of a Linux kernel - that uses a "card" metaphor to switch between applications. However, the interesting thing is that developers can use HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript to create applications. There are LOTS of developers in the world that know HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript.

On the flip side, you have to be a "real" object oriented programmer to grasp Objective C for iPhone/iPad applications or Java on Android (or Blackberry) phones or C# (or C++) for Windows Mobile applications. Now, don't get me wrong - there are TONS of professional programmers/engineers that know these languages like the back of their hands.

In the past, I've tried to learn C++ but, unfortunately, my mind imploded before I could get a good enough handle on it to use it creatively to solve problems. Objective C is a little better in 2.0 with the built-in garbage collection (but not on the iPhone/iPad version!) - but there are thousands of really, really long-named functions that take a very long time to become proficient in. Straight Java is no picnic, but it's still a bit easier than C.

So where does this leave the content-expert "hobby" developer? Or the GUI-focused web developer? Sure, they can build web applications - all modern mobile platforms have browsers and Internet connections - but except for Palm's webOS - they're basically out of luck in terms of leveraging their existing skills to building native mobile applications.

There are a couple of companies that have built excellent platforms that will allow developers to use HTML/CSS/JavaScript and then either generate native C (or Java or Objective C) code and create "real" native applications, or they have native applications that allow programs to run inside of them (a native application "layer").

Two examples that come to mind are Appcelerator and Runtime Revolution. Well, since Apple has changed its Terms of Service for the Apple Developers Program in a bid to stop Adobe from allowing Flash developers to cross-compile their code to work on the iPhone/iPad - these two companies are in real danger of losing their mobile strategy in terms of the Apple platform.

At the end of the day, developers have to make up their minds on where to spend their time and money developing applications. Right now the 800 pound gorilla is Apple. Will HP's marketing muscle be enough to goose Palm's webOS into higher adoption rates? Android seems to also be picking up more devices and more steam, and Symbian has yet to unleash their open source mobile operating system... sheesh!

It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the marketplace - whether Apple can hold on to the #1 spot, or whether it will get cocky and implode or continue to dominate the consumer landscape. Because, at the end of the day, developers are just like all other business people - they tend to follow the money.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Apple Picks Fight WIth Gizmodo Over iPhone Leak

*DING* Round 1.

In this corner - weighing in at 98 pounds - we have the challenger - Gizmodo (owned by Hawker Media)....

And in this corner - weighing 800 pounds - we have the undisputed Legal Team Heavyweight of the World - Apple...


This should be interesting (in the same sick way it's cool to watch a slow motion car crash). It seems that Apple is "evaluating its options" in pursuing CRIMINAL charges regarding the leak last week of the next-gen iPhone by Gizmodo.

According to AppleInsider - Apple has contacted the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office - and the police - seeing if they have enough evidence to support a criminal investigation. The investigation seems to be focusing on the guy that found the phone (in a bar!) - as well as Gawker Media for paying $5,000 to the guy so they could get a world exclusive in blowing the door open on one of Apple's best-kept-secrets.

It seems that Apple's a bit pissed off... and while I can understand that the leak cost them millions in free PR they usually get when they release a new product - putting someone in actual JAIL over it is just plain insanity.

Jail? Really? Over a flippin' mobile PHONE that coming out in 2-3 months anyway?

Maybe Apple is believing their own press - and believing their own hype. Their stock price hovering around $270 per share - which gives them a market cap just $25 billion less than Microsoft's! Who knows - maybe the buzz of releasing the iPad hasn't worn off... or...

Maybe... just maybe... they're like that bully in grade school. They just like making people squirm. They, perhaps, just like acting like rich 5 year olds and want people to know that they don't LIKE that (stomping foot!).

Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It looks like they forgave the poor bastard who left the phone in the bar (he's still working at Apple - but jeez - I would NOT have like to be THAT guy the next day!). So, they WANT (stomping foot!) their pound of flesh - and they don't care about anything other than themselves.

As one author so succinctly put it "...let him who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apple Takes Dollies - Goes Home

I know that Apple loves to control "the process" from end-to-end. They like to make their own hardware, operating system and software so that it will all work together seamlessly - and, being a Mac owner (and iPhone owner) - I like that stuff "just works."

However, their recent changes to the developer agreement for their upcoming iPhone/iPad 4.0 version (this summer) - is going a little too far.

Here's the great AppleInsider article by Prince McLean that outlines the new terms. Basically, it says that you can only make applications for the iPhone/iPad that are written in our tools - and not in any other tool that "translates" code into a native iPhone application.

What the ?

Really? I mean there were lots of cool applications that are in development (Appcelerator, Runtime Revolution, etc) that tried to make development of iPhone/iPad applications easy. To do so, they had the developer write in either HTML/Javascript - or their own proprietary language, and then it would just "spit out" a compiled application ready for the App Store.

But - here's the fly in the ointment - ADOBE was also preparing to allow their Flash developers to re-compile their flash applications as native iPhone/iPad applications - and this (apparently) went up Steve Job's bum like a hot knife through butter.

So - what did he do? What Apple ALWAYS does - it called the legal department. I mean really - I get that Apple wants to protect their App Store from all the Flash "crapware" that's out there, but honestly - they could just reject the apps that suck (which they don't want to do - since they get tons of criticism for that as it is!), or they could just welcome the 1,000,000 more developers that would create applications for their platform.

But no. Steve Jobs has to have 100% CONTROL or he goes nuts. I think that Apple needs to take a man pill - and just accept that the if-it's-not-invented-here-we-won't-let-them-play mentality needs to go away.

Objective C is an abortion that should never have seen the light of day. If they are going to effectively "ban" other companies from creating tools to make iPhone/iPad applications - then THEY need to step up to the plate with a development environment (like Appcelerator or Runtime Revolution) that makes development easier and more accessible to more people.

Man up, Jobs!

UPDATE #1: Adobe's response today: "Go screw yourself Apple" (full text)
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