Andy Merrett writes…
Developers have been waiting for some time to find out exactly if and how they can create applications for the iPhone – and yesterday Steve Jobs told them.
At his opening Keynote speech to the World Wide Developers’ Conference, he made it clear that the iPhone would handle applications, and they’d all run using Web 2.0 and AJAX technologies via the updated version of the Safari web browser.
I’ve already written that developers may now take notice of Safari because of the iPhone, and this effectively seals the deal.
I think Apple has been very clever here. They’ve pushed version 3 of their Safari web browser – which they claim already has a 5% worldwide market share – onto three platforms at once.
Unlike Microsoft, who commonly make some of their proprietary web technologies available (just about) on a number of platforms, but keep developers tied to Windows, Apple has opened the door to those wishing to develop for the iPhone regardless of whether they use Windows or OS X.
Whether or not Apple significantly increases Safari’s market share amongst PC users may not be as relevant as the fact that they now have a unified browser that can be developed for using widely-adopted web standards.
Web developers will tell you that, even amongst browsers that purport to adhere to “web standards”, there are enough niggling differences to make application development interesting. That’s why it’s so important that Safari can now be used on multiple platforms. An application developer testing on Safari on a PC or Mac should be highly confident that their software will also run correctly on the iPhone.
In the past Safari hasn’t been well catered for, and as such the functionality on some Web 2.0 web sites has been missing or degraded. This is one of the reasons that many people have moved to Firefox on the Mac.
Though the keynote demonstration and details were sketchy, it’s likely that there will be some distinctive functionality in the iPhone version of Safari. The demo suggested that the browser would integrate seamlessly with other iPhone functionality, so developers will need to know exactly how their applications can interact with core iPhone features.
This method of development may not please everyone, but it should allow a large number of developers who are already well-versed in modern web technologies the ability to develop versatile iPhone apps in the protective and secure Safari environment.