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...