I have to be careful sometimes when posting about Apple’s latest stuff, because I am, to a certain degree, what some call an Apple fanboy. I don’t like everything Apple does, but I am certainly receptive to their designs and their approach to consumer technology. I think they generally “get it right” whereas so many other tech companies simply pile on the features and end up with a horrible user experience. I have serious beefs with DRM and closed platforms, but I also don’t see anyone coming close to Apple in terms of usability, so I tend to overlook their significant mistakes in those areas. (No, sorry, I will never be able to get my parents to use Ubuntu, as much as I love and promote free software. It was tough enough to get them off Windows and Internet Explorer.)
Still, I left some time between Apple’s latest iPhone announcements and this blog entry in order to let the ideas distill a bit. It’s two weeks later, and I still think there’s something big going on here.
This is not new to a whole bunch of web 2.0 developers, and, again, Firefox folks are saying “ummm, duh, welcome to the club.” But it is new to many IT departments and to many users who still see a sharp line between web apps for “going online” and desktop apps for “real work.” You can see some enterprise IT folks complaining already about “renegade users” buying iPhones and trying to hook them into their corporate network. And when they ask for an “iphone-enabled corporate directory,” they’ll be asking for a web-enabled corporate directory. The Web is the Platform. The Web is the Platform. It’s going to start to sink in fast on June 29.
To me, an interesting question has to do with mash-ups, or, as the pre-web generation calls it, inter-process communication. Apple’s press release states:
Developers can create Web 2.0 applications which look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone, and which can seamlessly access iPhone’s services, including making a phone call, sending an email and displaying a location in Google Maps.
What does that mean, exactly? The simplest approach, which appears to be what Apple is opting for so far (given the one sample app they’ve demoed), is for the iPhone to trigger the mail application on mailto:email@example.com links, the phone application on phone:617.999.9999, and their fancy custom animated Google Maps interface on all HTTP queries to maps.google.com. That’s useful, but I’d like to be more impressed.
What if, at some point, Apple delivers some truly well thought-out ability to mash up a public web service with the iPhone’s local services? Imagine if there’s a way to have your web application say: “please go pick a contact from your address book, then post that contact’s information back to this URL”. Or if the web application can actually prepare a complete email on your behalf, image attachments included (oh the security issues….), and have you just confirm that, yes, you really want to send that email (the web app definitely can’t do that without confirmation)? What if Apple were to prepare a true web platform, where applications can make real procedure calls out to one another?
Or maybe I’m just an Apple fanboy.