LearnWhy Apple's iPhone is going to rock the web app industry

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Ryan
writes on January 10, 2007

Before the announcement of iPhone, building web apps for mobile devices was very hard to justify financially. We would never consider it because the market is too fractured with different devices with different standards. It was a complete nightmare.

Apple's iPhone

Not anymore.

Better Mobile Browsing

The iPhone’s browser looks to be very close to Safari (this is just a guess, but a safe one I believe). This means that with some clever planning, web app companies like us can build apps that reliably work on both desktop and mobile platforms!

Access to standard OS features

Not only is the browser going to support standard web apps, but because the phone runs OSX, you’ll have all the standard access you’re used to when it comes to the OS.

Power to the people!

This blows open the market for web app companies. Now we can build web apps that can be used at your computer and on the go. Holy crap!

Of course, most web apps aren’t suitable (or useful) on mobile phones. However, there are a ton of great ideas that could be the perfect marriage of desktop (while you’re at the office) and mobile (while you’re out-and-about).
Not only this, but 3rd party software developers are going to have a hay-day with this. We should see an explosion of quality, useful mobile applications.
You may be saying, “Well, that’s great for everyone who owns an iPhone. But what about everyone else?” True, but if the success of the iPod is any indication, we’ll see massive worldwide adoption of the iPhone.

I can’t wait to think of our next web app idea 🙂

0 Responses to “Why Apple's iPhone is going to rock the web app industry”

  1. What parts of its economic philosophy are unclear? ,

  2. What parts of its economic philosophy are unclear? ,

  3. For those interesting, there is an online petition at http://www.freetheiphone.com to ask Steve to free the iPhone and let us make great software for it…

  4. Steve Jobs blew it with his loud mouth…

    I completely agree with the following article:
    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9008439

    If you disagree I would still recommend reading that article, it provides a good debate from another point of view. Although the phone looks really hot, have you seen what LG have been up to?

    http://www.engadgetmobile.com/2007/01/13/video-of-lgs-ke850-its-no-poser/

    And if you wondering who might have copied who?
    Just take a look at LG’s release dates…

  5. Ryan Carson on January 21, 2007 at 6:02 pm said:

    Oh yes, so the best way to solve that is to write apps for a device that will take at least a year to capture 1% of the market, if it ever does.

    Hey Nik – nice to see you stop by.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I really believe that the iPhone will reach a crtical mass, and I base this on the success of the iPod. Sure, the iPhone is expensive, but the price will drop eventually.

  6. “We would never consider it because the market is too fractured with different devices with different standards. It was a complete nightmare.”

    Oh yes, so the best way to solve that is to write apps for a device that will take at least a year to capture 1% of the market, if it ever does..

  7. No third-party apps. And Jobs even made some BS up why we do not want them…

    Why is it BS?

    Imagine the cool things you could do if they even would get an API to access the phone book and make calls or send SMS…

    Like all the viruses that came about when Microsoft provided programmatic access to the Outlook address book? Imagine that but on the scale of mobile phone ownership!

  8. It is official from the horse’s mouth: No third-party apps. And Jobs even made some BS up why we do not want them…

    http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/news/comments/apples-jobs-more-iphone-apps-coming-before-launch/9320

    A major letdown.

    And I was just dreaming how easy it would be to create widgets for the phone (a real democratisation of phone apps creation). Imagine the cool things you could do if they even would get an API to access the phone book and make calls or send SMS…

  9. The good news for Web app developers: the iPhone supports Widgets. If they’re anything like Dashboard Widgets, then not only will they be able to access the web but also use hooks into the iPhones OS.

    I did notice that the two Widgets demonstrated by Steve Jobs only accessed data from the Web – Weather and Financial. So maybe you can’t – yet 😉 – hook into the iPhone’s OS like you can on a regular Mac.

  10. My main fear is that UK carriers will want to slap their logo on the physical handset, and spew some branding onto the OS theme, as well as bogging it down with in house bloatware, like Orange’s crap.

    I don’t think they’ll get away with that with Apple. Notice how Apple don’t even let the mighty Intel put their horrible little stickers on Apple’s Intel-powered hardware.

  11. Some bad news for Web app developers: the version of Safari bundled with the iPhone doesn’t support Flash or Java

    http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/the-ultimate-iphone-frequently-asked-questions/

  12. **
    However, for mass adoption to happen, Apple really has to make it easy to switch to the carrier that supports the phone. I’m on Orange and if it’s a complete pain in the ass to switch carriers, I’m going to have to think twice about buying an iPhone.
    **

    I completely agree that that’s an important issue, but to be honest it’s not too much of a hassle to switch telco as things stand now, I know plenty of people who’ve done it, keeping their phone number in the process and getting a better deal.

    The integration between handset manufacturer’s included features and the service provider has always been a rocky road here. My windows smartphone would have had an 802.11 RF chip in it, but Orange didn’t want to subsidise the extra cost because nobody else was launching the handset, so there was no competitive reason to.

    Apple have clearly done some great work with Cingular, particularly with the GUI inbox style voicemail. My main fear is that UK carriers will want to slap their logo on the physical handset, and spew some branding onto the OS theme, as well as bogging it down with in house bloatware, like Orange’s crap.

    As for market adoption, it’s still priced and targeted at the higher end of the market. I can’t see it getting majority market share for a good few years after launch. As I said, very few people actually buy handsets. It’ll be a question of whether the Apple factor, the fact that it’s an iPod as well, and the slick interface will be enough to bring more people round to owning a handset. In that respect it could be very dislocative for the UK mobile industry, since subsidisation plays such a big part today.

    I’m enjoying this conversation immensely 😀

  13. **
    Ben, the problem with that, is that you first have to know about those browsers, then you have to try to install them. I own a web company and even I haven’t even tried to install Opera Mini.
    **

    True, but I’m sure Opera must be heading towards some big bundling deals, especially now that they’ve got Nintendo sewn up on Wii and DS. In that regard though, Apple are going to be first to market with a decent standards-compliant browser on a smartphone out of the box. (I’m assuming we don’t count IE on WinMo in the above category 😉 )

  14. However, for mass adoption to happen, Apple really has to make it easy to switch to the carrier that supports the phone. I’m on Orange and if it’s a complete pain in the ass to switch carriers, I’m going to have to think twice about buying an iPhone.

    Ryan: to be honest this is not really down to Apple. It is down to the carriers themselves. A few years ago the carriers finally all agreed to make moving easier and to allow for retention of your number — previously it could take up to 3 months to transfer your number. Now you just need a code from your existing carrier and your new carrier should sort out the transfer on your behalf.

  15. Note, the phone runs ‘OS X’ and not ‘Mac OS X’ – they make a distinction between the two, so I think what it’ll run is something that looks like Mac OS X, maybe even has some shared components, but is not Mac OS X.

    I think it looks nice, but it’s another proprietary lock in device from a proprietary vendor and we should avoid that if we want to see progress.

  16. There’s some validity in the points raised by the nay-sayers (and I say that respectfully, not as a put-down), but I agree Ryan.

    From everything I’ve read, the iPhone doesn’t run on an OS-X-based platform; it runs OS-X. It’s not so much a smartphone as it’s a mini-Mac Mini with a built-in touch screen.

    Personally, I think this is going to lead to a lot more development for the Mac platform, period. It will also bolster Flash/Flex and reinvigorate Java, assuming that OS-X doesn’t get watered-down on the iPhone.

    On the issue of price – I don’t think that either the entry-level model at $499 or the 8 GB model at $599 are price deterrants; look at what people have been willing to pay for the iPod all by itself, plus accessories. Also, I am sure that Cingular (and other carriers, once they sign-on with Jobs & Co.) will discount the hardware and make up the difference with their service fees.

    Just my two cents.

  17. I agree with Maykel – the true potential here is in VoIP, using the iPhone’s WiFi capabilites. There are many people who will actually find iPhone a bargain deal when they can talk for free from a coffeeshop in Shanghai to the main office in London. And once WiMax finally arrives it we might see iPhone do to telecom sector what iPod did to the music industry.

    BTW, regarding killer apps it’s interesting to note the variation on the former desktop ones – the killer Web apps for the iPhone already exist, they’ve just been waiting for the hardware that will make use of them: Google Maps will be that much more valuable starting June 😉

  18. Oh yeah!

    That was my thought exactly as I heard the news about this machine.

    I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with “smart”phones. I even tinkered with developing on the Palm.

    With massive Leopard version WebKit adoption (iPhone, Apollo, Leopard Safari, etc…) 2007 is shaping up to be the Year of the WebApp.

    Over at CrazyEgg we’re already thinking of insane things we can do with our current projects and our {censored proprietary information} which will just blow everyone away 😉

    C’mon June!

  19. Ryan Carson on January 10, 2007 at 10:29 pm said:

    They can compete on price and hopefully within a year or two regular smart phones will have real, usable browsers on them.

    Amen, Simon!

    I would also have thought that Opera Mini should be easy enough to code web apps to (not that I’ve tried), and there’s also the UIQ3 browser, and I’ve already seen Safari on a Nokia.

    Ben, the problem with that, is that you first have to know about those browsers, then you have to try to install them. I own a web company and even I haven’t even tried to install Opera Mini.

    By having a capable browser that is already installed, Apple is going to blow the market open.

    The average consumer however, already has a mobile phone, so there’s going to be more of a fight for market share.

    I’m going to disagree with this. I believe people are always looking for easier and better things. Especially with phones which are so integral to our modern lives.

    However, for mass adoption to happen, Apple really has to make it easy to switch to the carrier that supports the phone. I’m on Orange and if it’s a complete pain in the ass to switch carriers, I’m going to have to think twice about buying an iPhone.

    If they nail that though, it truly will be a game changer.

  20. I look forward to doing calls over Skype using an iPhone on virtually any place!!!

  21. what’s even more intriguing: the iPhone is probably the first mobile device featuring a browser capable of Javascript and therefor modern AJAX-apps.

    plus, given the fact its somewhat based on Mac OS, I bet a Flash-player isn’t to far away…

    I just hope they’ll add 3G until the thing launches in europe… all those web-features just don’t make sense at the speed of GRPS.

  22. I don’t know, Ryan. With the iPod there was no existing mass-market installed base before Apple broke into the market – only geeks tended to have portable mp3 players. They just (yet again) looked at what was out there, and made it far easier and nicer to use, opening up the mass-market for pillaging. Creative and their ilk, and now Microsoft have just caught up, but the market share is sewn up…

    The average consumer however, already has a mobile phone, so there’s going to be more of a fight for market share. Of course it will do brilliantly and I’d be fascinated to see the EU market share figures 6 months after it’s launch here in Q407. Consider though that PAYG phones must make up a huge proportion of at least the UK’s mobile market, and subsidised contracts the rest, barring the (~1%?) with the means to purchase the latest handsets outright at up to £500.

    I would also have thought that Opera Mini should be easy enough to code web apps to (not that I’ve tried), and there’s also the UIQ3 browser, and I’ve already seen Safari on a Nokia. As with all things Apple, very little of the on-paper stuff is new, it’s all about the execution of the concept.

  23. If the iPhone does take off as well as the iPod then the true benefit to web application developers will be that other companies will be forced to follow along and implement similar browsers which will then make it easier to develop/port web apps to mobile devices – which as Ryan says offers a huge potential for new exciting applications and services.

  24. My thoughts exactly. By taking their “it just works” philosophy to the mobile arena, Apple is going to make waves.

    I think they’re missing the boat a bit, by not linking the phone to your home computer at all times. But Jobs can only blow people’s minds so much at once.

    Leaves a bit of room for startup too 🙂

  25. I don’t think the point is to install software on the phone itself. You just need to be able to surf to the website app itself. With the exception of some .net/ie apps that don’t play well with Safari.

    About the keynote, I too was so excited. I could imagine millions of people around the world watching/refreshing either enGadget or MacRumours yelling at their monitors while MS co-workers just watched and laughed at how excited you were about a phone. And then they ignored the revolution and put back on their Zune players.

    I just wish Steve would have called Bill Gates at CES during the keynote to say hi.
    He has the ba*ls to do it.

  26. Good points Ryan. And with Adobe Apollo coming soon, that will further blur the lines between web and desktop apps. Since iPhone is using OSX, I suppose that makes the possibilities that much greater.

    I have seen reports that you will not be able to install any software on it. I don’t know how true that is, but, will it allow web-based applications that share desktop functionality?

    Have you used a PSP on the web yet? It’s not a bad experience; not great either. I’m assuming the iPhone will do a better job with it’s browser capabilities.

  27. The bad news (at the moment) is that we won’t be able to install our own apps on the phone:

    http://feeds.tuaw.com/~r/weblogsinc/tuaw/~3/73216120/

    Personally I’m hoping that this article is a load of crap. One of the first things I thought after the announcement was how cool it would be to write little apps for it. It would be a shame if I couldn’t.

    That said, we both have until the end of the year to wait for them to change their minds 🙁

  28. Agree with Simon that Opera Mini does a pretty good job in the mean time, together with Google’s mail and maps apps. That’s not to say there isn’t room for better integration on mobile platforms. It will be interesting to see how other mobile applications such as Widsets respond.

  29. The price tag ($500 + a two year contract) is still going to keep the iPhone out of the hands of regular people for quite a while. What I’m hoping is that it will dramatically raise the bar for what’s expected of a smartphone, forcing the other manufacturers to implement proper browsers with zoomable interfaces. They can compete on price and hopefully within a year or two regular smart phones will have real, usable browsers on them.

    For the moment though, Opera Mini is a decent enough browser that having at least some mobile support for your Web application is pretty easy.

  30. We should see an explosion of quality, useful mobile applications.

    I’m not sure about this, because you’ve been able to write apps for Smartphones for a long time.

    Granted, there are useful, quality apps around, but there’s a ton of crap too. I don’t see what the iPhone should be any different! 🙂

    Can’t waits to gets me an iPhone though! I really hope it revolutionises the mobile market like the iPod did.

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