2009 will be known as the year the world learned the word app. With the first full calendar year of the app store coming to a close it is amazing to look back and see the growth that has occurred in this market. There are about 100,000 applications now available in the app store, give or take, with more being added every day. While this might seem like a bad thing to the average developer, there seems to be a correlation, at least for the time being, between the number of applications and the number of downloads.
Piper Jaffray has been quoted as saying that the app store has the potential to become a profitable billion dollar market, and 2009 is certainly a good indication of future success. People seem to love apps. These bite sized games, utilities, sports, news, jokes are robust enough to enjoy but small enough for our ever decreasing attention spans. As a developer 2009 was a great year for Cocoa tools, lets take a look back at some of the great things made available from the developer community.
- Facebook developer Joe Hweitt was kind enough to make his custom UI elements open source
- Teehan+Lax created and continued to update their iPhone Photoshop Template which is the quickest way to do a mockup of an app for clients.
- TouchCode released TouchXML and several other packages as open source alternatives to some of the standard XML Parser object that apple supplies.
- Nice little tools like NSDate+Helper were released to make using some Cocoa objects simpler.
- OpenFeint matured and became an important part of many games.
- AdMob after less than 3 years of existence was acquired by Google for $750 Million!
The iPhone developer community continues to evolve as developers create better and better tools. This makes development of advanced features, such as leader boards and multiplayer easier, but also raises the bar on what users expect from applications. 2010 will surely have higher quality applications and greater competition as developers get better at tailoring software specifically for the iPhone.
What’s coming up in 2010
With 2009 in the books, and people starting to see the reality of the app store, I imagine we will see a general decline in the app craze that currently surrounds us. New platforms, and devices, create a sort of gold rush when they are announced. As technologies change quicker and quicker these gold rushes get shorter and shorter. I think it is obvious that as more apps are released and as more developers enter the marketplace, flawless common experiences will be required for apps to be successful. Things like sharing (Twitter, Facebook, Email) are likely to all assimilate as more open source modules for this are introduced. I think an emerging market right now are applications based around accessories. Apple just this month rolled out iPhone accessories for checkout at Apple Stores, along with several others. I imagine we will see things like universal remote adapters, fm transmitters, heath care accessories, scales, and gaming controllers. If these kinds of devices are introduced and gain some popularity it will help to solidify the iPhone in the marketplace, as accessories for any device are really a sort of investment in them. In terms of development changes in 2010, I’m sure we will see SDK 4.0 being released at some point. I can’t speak to new features since they would all essentially be guesses, but I do see apple enhancing one specific type of operation in the next OS revision. A great new feature in OS 3.0 was the introduction of NSOperation and Core Data (Tutorial coming soon I promise!). These tools are Apple’s solution for simplifying the interface to SQLite and NSThreading. I could see apple adding even more abilities to these classes to make background processing even simpler. This could eventually lead to Apple letting the next iPhone run apps in the background like the Palm Pre and some Android distributions.
iCodeBlog is going to be seeing a lot of changes in 2010 as well. We have been hard at work at rolling out a brand new look for the site as well as adding a could of extra new sections to help you guys get your apps made. We want to help our readers apply the skills that they are learning to real apps that get into the store. The new iCodeBlog will offer sections for developers to list their credentials and availability as well as a place for people to post prospective projects with descriptions, budgets and deadlines. We want to evolve into the number one place for iPhone developers to come to hone their skills and find work.
In order to facilitate this we will be putting a lot of work into making users and their profiles more integrated into the site. Comments will receive a significant update and we will be trying to do as many requested tutorials as we can. We are also very excited about iPhone OS 4.0 and whatever other goodies are shipped out from the mothership in Cupertino this year (See below). For now we will give a small glimpse into what we are thinking for iCodeBlog 2010.
As I’m sure most of you have seen, tablet talk is hitting a fever pitch. Apple’s stock the last few weeks is evidence enough that people think something is up in Cupertino. I’m not going to say whether or not I think there will be one. I want there to be one, but like everyone else I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say. With that said, lets assume something does come out. Lets for a moment dive into the hypothetical development market of the Apple Tablet. First off some ground rules. Lets assume we have the 10.1 inch glass multi touch tablet everyone is predicting, similar to the Joo Joo Pad.
I’m sure that there is going to be some type of Apple flare, however for simplicities sake lets say a device with very similar hardware to the JooJoo Pad is released by Apple. Lets also assume that the device has some hybrid of OS X and iPhone OS, allowing for background processing and higher performance but using its own UI classes much like the iPhone. Here is what I see as the emerging markets as a result of a device like this.
Make Reading Cool Again
Many people when talking about this device deem it to be the “Kindle Killer”. The major difference between a device like this and the Kindle or the Nook is that it would have an LCD of some type rather than the eInk employed in current eBook Readers. While I understand the advantage in terms of looking at eInk compared to an LCD on eye strain, an LCD will be able to present the media rich content we have become accustomed to on the internet much better than its eBook counterparts. Over the last few weeks many of these “tablet magazine” video mock ups have been coming to light. This is my personal favorite and I think it brings up a lot of interesting design ideas that we may begin seeing in 2010.
I see this experience as an elegant merger of the periodical and the internet. Magazines and their physical properties have an important role in history. Newspaper covers and magazine covers stand as markers of important moments in history. I don’t feel that websites have achieved this same position in our minds. Does anyone remember what the front page of NY Times look like on a certain day? The amount of content has skyrocketed, however the lasting impact of the content has suffered. I feel that the UI put forth in a device such as the tablet will be able to allow news outlets and other types of content generators to present their work more deliberately, and therefore make it more permanent in the minds of its viewers. The goal here is to present dynamic content in a permanent context. Sustain all the flexibility the web has made us expect, while presenting it in classical forms.
This new market is going to make a new kind of job opening for any type of service that presents content to its users. In 2009 we saw the emergence of apps. Many times apps were small utilities like conversion tools or timers. But the vast majority of app (excluding games) are really just content delivery mechanisms. Take any news application for example. These are native iPhone apps, but more generally they are specialized views of the providers web content. When you open up the CNN app you are really just seeing the same content that is availabale on their website except they have been kind enough to make you pay $2.99 to see it in this iPhone specialized package (Not a rip on CNN BTW, they got the king of news apps IMHO).
The idea of a big high resolution touch screen is very alluring in terms of creating these new types of content views. Companies like Bonnier AB are investigating what types of software design could be used to emulate the physical experiences we had in the past. It seems reasonable that Apple could use its current 70/30 model from the app store and apply it to content like this, or possibly borrow ideas from the app store such as season subscriptions. As a developer this is the most exciting prospect for me.
To deliver content as complex as the kind shown in the concept Sport Illustrated video, Apple will need to create a ton of new UI elements for developers to be able to create dynamic applications rapidly. Overall I see a very important shift in the skills that a great tablet developer will need. There is going to be a big desire for developers who are able to walk the line of designer and developer. Magazines and newspapers for years have been increasing the amount of money invested into developers as their websites become as popular as the actual periodical they create. With this kind of outlet available, these organizations will be looking for hybrid talent. A successful digital magazine is going to require input from both developers and designers. As a result of this I see Apple introducing a highly revamped Interface Builder, essentially taking some of the key points from InDesign and Quatrz. While Interface Builder will need to take on some kind of print design functionality, that does not perfect suite the kind of software development I see occurring. The common print elements of yesteryear (Sidebars, Block Quotes, Photo, Captions) will need to be given some kind of internet like functionality to allow for this joining of print design and dynamic content. I see Apple using some of the ideas that it has already built into iWork as nice foundations for developers tools such as this. If you look at the “Smart Builds” that have been included in Keynote, I think we can see a nice glimpse into the future UI components Apple will make available to developers.
Big Screen Gaming
A device like the tablet would allow for the touch control based games we have seen emerging over the last year to really mature. A few months back Illusion Labs in conjunction with TouchTech showed off a BIG screen multitouch demo of their games TouchGrind and Sway and I personally find the results amazing. A lot of times when I am playing games on my phone I find myself unable to be immerse in the experience because I am constantly blocking my view of the gameplay with my fingers. With a larger screen I think game developers would be able to work around this problem more effectively and create a new class of games that really take advantage of the unique input that multitouch allows.
There are certain gaming genres that are really going to gain a lot of value as more powerful multitouch devices and frameworks are released. Ubisoft has this great promotional video for the new game Ruse that shows off some compelling looks at game play of a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game on a large multitouch screen; and a device like the tablet would be a great stepping stone for software like this and would be easy for developers to move the already incredibly popular iPhone RTS’s onto. I’m not much of a game developer myself but these two videos make me feel like video games are going to see a lot of benefit through the proliferation of larger, higher resolutions touch screen devices. People have been saying the Apple has thrown the gauntlet in the portable gaming wars and with a device like that tablet they are looking to really piss off the big time console manufacturers. It is going to be interesting if Apple would push this larger touch screen device in the gaming market as much as they have pushed the iPod Touch. If there was to be some development in terms of the integration of the two devices, say the iPhone acting as a controller for a game running on the touch, Apple would essentially be entering into a market with xBox and PS3.
So with all this said one large question does remain for this device. Can it really be a success in the way that the iPod and iPhone were? Everything I have referenced relies completely upon this thing having a major audience. If Apple only sells 1 million of these things this year they are going to be in some serious trouble. These high profile magazines, enhanced content and high budget games are only going to be made if there is an audience to consume the content. Can this “iSlate” really be the digital device to rule them all? The computer for the desk was incredible for a while but then became to immobile. The laptop was incredible for mobility but lack use on the move. The iPhone was incredible to use on the move but lacked power and functionality. Can the tablet conquer mobile usage and power. I have been pondering this for months and for some reason my mind keep wandering off to this one specific episode of South Park in the fourth Season called “Trapper Keeper” (see below). The idea is Catmen gets the new Trapper Kepper that really kind of looks like a tablet. It can do all these crazy functions and even work with other devices. I guess currently the Adult trapper keeper is the laptop. It holds our notes, conversations, drawings, contacts, appointments; much like our school day trapper keeper did. Can Apple be making the real adult Trapper Keeper? My vote for the name is iKeeper.
Thanks for reading and happy coding!
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