Thursday, October 25, 2007

iPhone SDK: the Apple deck

As a usual commentator of iPhone fortunes, I have been mulling Steve Job's announcement of the iPhone open SDK for a few days and I finally I made up my mind...

It is not going to be open.

My first reaction was pure excitement. I have been pushing for this announcement since day zero, when Steve made me laugh saying "it is the first SDK without a SDK", also known as a browser... Now that the announcement is here, I just do not think it will be enough.

Here you have my predictions on the SDK (hey, I got the announcement of the Touch right, I might get lucky for the second time ;-)
  1. You are not going to be able to download apps on the iPhone over the air.
  2. You will have to go through iTunes, where they will build the Application Store, keeping complete control of the system (is anybody saying "on-deck"? ;-)
  3. As a developer, you will have limited APIs. For starters, no file system access, it will be a sandbox with access to your own application files. That's it.
  4. Because of the above, no way to build ringtones (they have to protect that chunk of the business) or access to music or building another million interesting applications.
  5. As a developer, you will have to "certify" yourself first (hopefully without paying), submit your application (hopefully online) and wait for a person to review it. I do not believe this system will be automated. They will have a certification suite but also someone to review the app to make sure it is "appropriate" for the iTunes Application Store. It will take time and be a tedious process.
Bottom line, we will have removed the on-deck requirement of the carrier... and we will get the on-deck requirement of the device manufacturer. The excuse will be security, viruses and blah blah. The end result is going to be an open SDK which will not be really open. That would be a disgrace.

Therefore, the key application which is missing on the iPhone, over-the-air synchronization, might not make it "on-deck". Hoping for the better, we just finished the first version anyway. Patrick Ohly, one of our estimated Funambol community MVPs, just released the iPhone version of SyncEvolution. It is the first SyncML client for the iPhone, syncing your address book with the free myFUNAMBOL portal natively (and other SyncML servers). For now, it has no GUI (so you need to be a geek and have ssh access to the device), but it works extremely well. We are also working on a nice GUI, which will have all the bells and whistles you would expect. It is going to be out in a week or so, stay tuned...

Just hoping to see Funambol on the Apple deck in February...