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Friday, March 7, 2008

Did the iPhone SDK mean Apple will corner the Anywhere device market?

asus_eee.jpg has an interesting claim that Apple's SDK announcement yesterday may have an unexpected result:

Apple opened a big door with the announcement and shut quite a few others in the process. Apple not only took the UMPC/MID market away, it will own mobile for some time to come, with everyone else playing catch up. The race to the top is over. Now everyone else can scramble to figure out who is number two.


So here's how I'm going to gauge whether this is happening or not: track the sales of Asus Eee PC at Amazon. If they fall off a cliff, Apple killed the segment. But given the incredible diversity of developers and users, some of whom have not interest in iPhones or Apple, I suspect they'll do just fine. The key to thinking about Anywhere products is that people have many different requirements for how they will use and buy mobile devices. No one company can meet all those needs, no matter how wonderful the device.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Apple won't make a whole lot of money trying.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Apple knows how to launch a platform

I'm in the midst of writing an analysis piece for Yankee about what Apple's announcement of its iPhone Software Development Kit means for enterprises. But here's the short version:

Apple just showed everyone how to grow a developer ecosystem.

Apple kicked off the announcement by giving enterprises features they had requested to approve iPhone uses in business, including:

  • Microsoft ActiveSync built in for secure push email and remote wipe and Exchange integration,
  • 802.1x and WPA2 WiFi security,
  • Cisco VPN support for secure communication

But then Apple kicked things up a notch with the SDK details, which included:

  • Complete integration with Apple's existing developer framework, Xcode,
  • Performance analysis tools to make apps run fast on the iPhone
  • Access to nearly every API on the device, including OpenGL, multi-touch, WiFi, accelerometers
  • A full iPhone simulator to help with debugging.

Just to prove this wasn't hype, Apple gave the SDK to a group of companies for about two weeks to see what they could do with it. Each of those companies created versions of their applications in that time, including Electronic Arts' Spore, Salesforce's Salesforce Automation Epocrates's instant messenger, Epocrates' Drug Identifier, and Sega's Super Monkey Ball. Not bad for two weeks of work.

But the real surprise was Apple's efforts to market and develop an ecosystem for third-party iPhone development. Marketing and distribution terms were:

  • All third-party applications will be distributed through a new iPhone AppStore. Developers wishing to do so pay a $99 fee, but can set their own prices for their apps, including free should they choose to do so.
  • iTunes will have a part of its store dedicated to third-party apps and promoting the top downloads. Developers get 70% of revenues for paid apps.
  • Kleiner Perkins is launching a $100 million iFund to fund iPhone developer companies. That means money shouldn't be a barrier to getting an great third-party iPhone software business off the ground.

Now I know that not everyone will agree with all the details, and I think everyone expected Apple to seed iPhone development with its SDK. But what Apple actually did is till the ground for development with enterprise features, seed it with the SDK, water it with marketing and distribution, and fertilize it with cash. If third-party apps don't grow with that kind of support, nothing will.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Working Anywhere: today it's the hospital


I'm try to take the title of this blog -- Notes From Anywhere -- seriously and blog from wherever I happen to be most days. Today, I'm in Emerson Hospital in Concord accompanying my son who is in for X-rays. The hospital accommodatingly provides guest WiFi, so I can work from the waiting area. I'm not sure this is necessarily a giant step forward, but it is handy for staying in touch.

I remember once advising a hospital client about WiFi wireless networks when they were new. Being an old radio and RF guy, I cautioned them not to introduce new wireless technologies into their environment without doing careful interference testing with life-support systems and other critical hospital gear. The guy looked at me with an amused look, and said, "You don't understand -- we already have the wireless networks; we just want to know how to manage them." Oops. So much for the all-knowing analyst.

Today, hospitals have nearly as many computers and networks as they do patients. Some patients even get WiFi in their rooms so they can stay in touch with family and friends. And visitors like me can work from waiting areas with guest WiFi. And why not? After all, you can be sick Anywhere.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Anywhere apps get a choice of development tools

Today, I'm thinking about two news items this week as I am researching mobile Web site development for my upcoming report:

These two news items reflect the two camps I've talked to about Mobile Web sites. One camp believes that native mobile applications are the only way to get the responsiveness and integration needed for a great mobile experience. In the other camp, though, are a large group of people who believe that the mobile Web will evolve to capture the lion's share of mobile user attention, just as it has on the desktop.

Just like with desktop and laptop computers, I don't think mobile app development will ever be a completely "either-or" proposition; I think we'll see Web AND native app development. For example, if you want to edit photos you've loaded on our laptop, you can edit them either using a desktop app like iPhoto or Photoshop (assuming you have them installed), or you can edit them online using,, and a host of others (assuming you have enough online access available). So why would we expect Anywhere mobile applications to be any different? Some applications will require dedicated native software, others will make more sense on the Web. Both approaches work.

Of course, Apple has already figured this out. Last year, it touted using Web technology to develop iPhone apps. This year, they're announcing the native iPhone SDK. Developers will get to choose which approach meets their customers' Anywhere needs best. The open question is which approach will generate the most excitement and enthusiasm for the platform. And while native apps have always held the edge in prior platforms like Palm and RIM devices, those platforms didn't boast browsers that were as a capable as the iPhone's. Only time will tell which tools developers will choose as their favorites, but at least developers will have the choice.