Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Emperor has no clothes

The number of people publishing sales statistics for their iPhone applications are few and far between. Apart from people like Pinch Media, who still really only have a skewed sample, the only people with a real overview of what's going on are Apple themselves. The rest of us just have to rely on our own experience, and anecdotal evidence like the recent post by iPhone developer Rick Strom.

Perhaps we're going to see a bit more transparency now that TechCrunch picked up Rick's post and ran with it, or at least some sort of acknowledgement that the App Store isn't going make developer's rich overnight.

I'm building applications for the store not because it's going to pay my mortgage any time soon, but because at last I have a mobile platform where I can "scratch my own itch". After years of pushing the boulder uphill on the on Series 60 platform, and before that on the Palm, the iPhone and Apple's SDK is a welcome breeze in an otherwise desolate wasteland of overly complicated development environments. The barrier for entry is just that much lower and, despite not really being viewed as a mainstream language, I've always had a soft spot for Objective-C. It fits the way I think about things...

...unlike Java. I've never really gotten on with Java. Despite dire warnings to the contrary I haven't missed not having it on my iPhone, the lack of Flash support is by far the more noticeable.

I was disappointed, although not terribly unsurprised, to learn that Google had gone with Java as their development platform and Eclipse as their IDE of choice for Android applications. Despite that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a G1 so that I can play around with the hardware, which allows you to do some cool things you can't yet do with the iPhone.

As Russell Beatie said back in 2005,

If someone's using a PC to demo the next big thing, then it's not the next big thing...

Despite the iPhone I consider the mobile web as still born. I rarely use the "real" web on my iPhone, instead the information is brought to me by those native applications that Apple didn't initially think were a good idea. The next big thing isn't going to be the Web, the last big thing was the Web, it's not going to be the next big thing as well.

Using the new iPhone SDK 3.0 your application can communicate with accessories attached to the phone, and rumours suggest that the next generation iPhone will have a magnetometer plugging the gap between the iPhone and the G1. Sensing is coming to your phone, and it's not just accelerometers anymore...

The signs of the next big thing; in the mainstream with devices like the iPhone and the G1, in academia with projects like Siftables and Google's PowerMeter, and out on the open-hardware fringes with things like the Arduino, are everywhere.

People won't get rich (re-)writing niche iPhone applications which get lost in the noise of the App Store. I know that, despite enjoying the experience of cranking out software, I'm not going to get rich except by the oddest of chances.

However a bunch of people are going to get rich, and probably fairly soon. We're entering a period of change. The next big thing is ubiquitous computing, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

Compared to a real ubiquitous computing we're at the banging the rocks together stage, but the recent trends towards embedded systems and cloud computing are obvious first steps down the path. The Emperor may have no clothes on, but he's got a good suit waiting in the closet...

Monday, May 25, 2009

CloudStatus on the iPhone

One of the problems writing software that relies on third party APIs is that when that content goes away your application breaks, and that's something that's happened to my Cloud Status application for the iPhone. The service I was relying on to provide real-time information on Twitter went away...

Cloud Status v3.0

Users of the application currently get a blank page when they ask for the status of Twitter, and there isn't an easy way to reproduce the information that I was using from Twitter's own API. So I've gone ahead and removed it from the application, and implemented the most requested feature for this application to replace it. Support for reporting real-time status from Google Apps, as well as Google App Engine...

The new Google Apps support...

Unfortunately you aren't going to be seeing this update on the App Store any time soon, I'm currently developing against the new 3.0 beta SDK which is still under NDA with Apple. However if you're a fellow developer who would like to test out the new Cloud Status application, and already have the new 3.0 OS deployed onto your iPhone or iPod touch, I'm happy to generate a limited number of Ad Hoc distribution copies for interested parties.

Update: You can of course just go an purchase the current version from the App Store. As soon as I can push the new version to the store I will, and you'll get it as a free update when I do...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sky Map for Android

So I've been much remiss in not mentioning the official release of John Taylor's Sky Map. Yet another of those funky Google products that started off as someone's 20% project and end up with an official Google launch and a less interesting name. What is it with Google and dull product names?

Kevin Serafini introducing Google Sky Map

John's new SkyMap application for Android does stuff that you're not going to get your iPhone to do because of hardware, rather than software, limitations. It makes use of the phone's GPS, accelerometer, and compass to create a window in the sky that moves with your hand.

John Taylor's demo at Google's Searchology Event

John and I actually had a discussion way back when about using the iPhone's GPS to simulate the G1's compass. The iPhone knows your position, so if you walk for a small distance in the direction you're facing, it should be to able to work that out as well...

Of course the question we couldn't resolve was "how far" in the direction you're facing you'd have to go, and in the end we figured it probably wouldn't work all that well. Just one of the reasons I'm looking forward to WWDC, which for once I'm actually going to be at, and the possibility of getting my hands on some new iPhone hardware.

Searching for the Moon

Well done John, very cool. Now, how do I get my hands on a G1 again?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New for the iPhone, App Engine Manager

Following on from my previous iPhone applications, Cloud Status and AWS Calc, and continuing with the Cloud Computing theme. I'd like to announce the release of my next iPhone application onto the App Store.

App Engine Manager for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch.

Want to manage your Google App Engine applications from your iPhone? There's an app for that...

The App Engine Manger application allows you to to monitor the status of Google App Engine in real time, estimate your monthly costs based on your current usage levels, then lets you estimate how much a sudden usage spike could cost.

It also allows you to look at the performance of each of your applications individually and examine requests per second, upload and download bandwidth and CPU.