iPhone, Mobile ajax, Mobile widgets and insights for iPhone developers

On the eve of the iPhone launch, it’s almost obligatory to do a post about iPhone :)

With its emphasis on the Mobile web, Mobile ajax and widgets – the iPhone conforms very much to my vision of mobile applications when I said back on Jan 1 2006 that why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development (although then – I never thought that the iPhone would accelerate that vision so much)

Besides being good for the Mobile web, the iPhone will also set new standards for the whole industry.

How long can we continue to build old style WAP like applications?

How long will customers accept it?

Even those who have not bought the iPhone will have high expectations now.

The few companies like Opera and Nokia which adopted web standards and rich media

will be the real winners. Many like openwave have simply missed the wave .

In any case, with the genie out of the bottle there is no turning back

iPphone developers will be unique (at least initially) in the sense that they will mainly be from the USA and they may not have a background of working with mobile apps (often coming from the MAC development area)

So here are some of my insights for developers

a) Access to device APIs;

update: See clarification of this issue HERE

Another update:


I feel like a protector to walled gardens – however I stand by my belief that APIs must have some form of authentication.

This is not specifically a defence of Apple. But I believe that no one in the industry can afford to open up APIs without some restrictions/authentication.

For instance, as the phone becomes a wallet, free access to APIs would mean access to money. Similarly, other scams could be possible

Secondly, If Location is known, then there are protection and privacy issues especially for minors.

I believe for these reasons, we need some form of signing mechanism – i.e. a controlled access to APIs.


Many developers are disappointed because the iPhone does not allow access to device APIs. I believe that it is not absolutely essential to have access to device APIs. We can still build simple, useful applications which customers will like. Also, in many cases, device access may not be possible for more practical reasons like security, protection of minors etc. Thus, one would expect that over time some process like symbian signed applications will emerge and that would allow access to device APIs. The lack of such access is an interim measure in my view. It is not limiting in terms of the apps we can develop and we can still build useful applications even when we don’t have access to device APIs. Other comparable platforms like Nokia s60 and Opera are also in the same boat. Security and safety are important in this context and they cannot be ignored.

b) To me, the support for Mobile widgets is critical and one to watch. Have a look

at this excellent post from Niall Kennedy and also my post on the potential for the iTunes to be a delivery mechanism for mobile widgets. I am watching mobile widgets with great interest.

c) The rollout of iPhone itself needs to be watched. It’s interesting to see how the

iPhone will work with the second, third and subsequent operators. For an analysis of

this see – The iPhone is extraordinary not because of it’s UI but because it’s the tail wagging the dog ..

d) Since the iPhone is never going to be a mass market phone, the real winners here

will be companies like Nokia and Opera – both familiar with the Mobile web, Mobile widgets

and Mobile ajax.

Dan Appelquist also has similar views .. when he says ..

So, irrespective of whether the iPhone itself is a success (and if Apple’s previous product launches are any guide, it will likely have its ups and downs) it will be a wake-up call to complacent industry executives and a needed shot in the arm for efforts to expand the Web developer ecosystem into the mobile platform.

update July 4 : iPhone APIs 2.0 :)