Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The (lost?) Android Opportunity

At the time Apple initially released the native SDK for the iPhone some people argued that Objective-C was a poor choice as a development language. I'd now argue that either they picked the right language, or more probably (at least within reason) the platform was good enough, attractive enough to developers, that the language they chose didn't matter all that much. Developers were willing to spend the time learning Objective-C just so they could write code for the iPhone.

I wasn't a long time Mac developer when the iPhone appeared. I learned Objective-C because I wanted to develop for the iPhone, not because it was widespread, or particular popular.
What's the difference between a Cocoa developer and a large pizza? A large pizza can still feed a family of four. - Mike Lee

Although its popularity is now on the rise; the language jumped 22 places in the TIOBE index in the last year, entering the top 20 "most popular" languages for the first time.

The popularity of Objective-C as measured by its TIOBE index. Climbing from 40th position in the rankings in 2002 to 19th position this month, with almost all of that growth in popularity being since the release of the iPhone.

After learning the language I found I actually quite liked it, it was powerful, and because it allows dynamic typing and binding it was flexible. Something I'd grown used to after years of using loosely-typed languages to get things done.

The development environment Apple provide, Xcode and Interface Builder, is the best I've come across. Perhaps not the most powerful, but they're the easiest to use, and because of the late object binding that Objective-C allows the heavy integration of Interface Builder into the development process hugely simplifies creating user interfaces. It also removes large chunks of glue code that, in other languages, you'd have to sit down and write yourself.

However while I downloaded the Android SDK from Google, I've done little with it. Despite the fact that Google picked Java as their development language for Android, a language I already knew fairly well. I even had a couple of ideas for the first Android Developer Challenge, and a couple of people were interested in working on them with me, but in the end I didn't bother.

The Android platform isn't that exciting, and until recently I couldn't pin down why. John Gruber writes in the Daring Fireball about the Android Opportunity complaining that the Android state-of-the-art is even further behind the iPhone than when the G1 was announced back in 2008.

The reason I wanted to develop for the iPhone was that is was so much better than the competition. Regretfully the Android handsets that the manufacturers have produced so far just, well, aren't.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The year of the tablet?

Wired has decided that 2010 will be the year of the tablet, and it's arguable that the multi-touch additions to upcoming Snow Leopard make a tablet an obvious step for Apple. Despite that, others are claiming that after seven years of torturous rumours and speculation the predicted tablet from Apple just doesn't exist. Whatever the truth of the thing we can confidently predict that over the next few months the rumour mill will be running at high speed.

Sitting on the sidelines, nobody tells me anything. But something is up. The rumours surrounding the Apple tablet have a curious firmness about them, much like the later part of the two years of rumours leading up to the original iPhone launch back at the start of 2007.

However having used a tablet to try and do actual work, I tend to agree that tablets aren't mainstream. But then netbooks aren't mainstream and they're selling rather well, even I bought one, or as it happens two of them.

Dell at least may be deliberately targeting their rumoured tablet at the niche e-book reader market, and may well even offer their tablet for free with a contract for "one or more digital media subscriptions", which would be interesting. The Kindle is selling well, so perhaps it's even a sustainable model. Although Amazon at least aren't giving away the hardware as a loss leader.

When it comes down to it I'd be less interested in the rumours of an Apple tablet if it wasn't for the iPhone. The iPhone was the first mobile device I've ever owned, and I've owned a fair few, where I could check my email comfortably. That's made a big difference, and it's because the iPhone is not a phone, it just happens to be able to make phone calls. So maybe what I really need is a well designed tablet?

Update: Of course there are some people that are just pulling figures out of the air when it comes to the rumoured Apple tablet...