iPhone 2.0- One Hand Gives, The Other Takes Away…

On June 19, 2008

As the release of iPhone 2.0 and the iTunes AppStore approaches, one of the big questions with regard to the iPhone is the impact Apple-approved 3rd party applications will have on both jail-broken applications and so-called “web apps”.

The past year has been good to both, as both have had a fertile environment in which to take root and grow. The locked nature of the iPhone meant that they were the only way to access applications and services that did not come installed on the iPhone. Both approaches have met the challenge beautifully and in so doing they have made the iPhone more powerful than ever.

Web-apps were envisioned by Apple from the very beginning. Apple provided access to all the tools needed to create a vast array of programs and games that could be accessed via WiFi or Edge. Despite some initial skepticism by many of us some amazing offerings have emerged over the past twelve months. And as the year progressed the degree of sophistication, ease of use and speed (through optimizing the interface) have been growing. Many of us quickly discovered that so long as we have an available wifi or edge connection, web applications work remarkably well and allow access everything from e-mail to news to games. Even the files stored on your home desktop became accessible through programs such as iGet Mobile and SugarSync.

Jailbreaking was a different story. While Apple may have expected that some enterprising folks would eventually find a way to open the platform and install additional applications ON the iPhone, I can’t imagine Apple EVER expected what actually took place. Each time the iPhone’s firmware was updated and “re-locked” by Apple it was only a matter of time before the closed system was  once again opened for all who were willing to “jailbreak”.  And if they didn’t expect THAT I cannot imagine Apple ever dreamed that an actual over-the-air delivery method would emerge in the form of “Installer.app”.  Once it did though, it was a whole new world. The application-goodness began to flow.

Want a resident IM program? Installer has you covered. Want to play games even when you don’t have a data connection? Take a look at Installer.app. Want more flexibility than the (embarrassingly) simple camera offered by Apple? Look at Installer.app. And perhaps MOST amazingly most of the applications were free!

To be honest, many of the early programs were rather rudimentary. The very fact that you could ADD applications to the iPhone, however, was amazing enough. And in recent months, the applications have become have become increasingly polished and powerful. One excellent example is an eBook reader called i2Reader. It is a beautiful application. It is polished, graphically interesting and easy to use. It is as nice as any ebook reader I have seen. (I don’t know how well it works in day to day use, however since the only books I could find for download were in Russian. But the application itself is amazing!)

In essence, it has been the Wild West with regard to Installer.ap-delivered resident applications for the better part of a year. There have been no real rules. No real oversight. No real limits beyond the incredible creativity within the developer community.  The times they are changing, however and there is a new sheriff coming to town. The Wild West is about to get tamed.

The upcoming the release of iPhone firmware 2.0 and the iTunes AppStore means the impending release (flood) of Apple-certified 3rd party apps. When that happens the need for installer-based and web-based applications all but evaporates. The pressure for developing on both fronts will be gone by July 11th at the latest. And I can’t help but wonder– one of the things I have been wondering is what will the impact be.

Earlier today my buddy Patrick over at Just Another iPhone Blog had an interesting comment in a post about the apparent slow-down in the release and revision of Installer-based application. He wrote,

“I am wondering a little this time though whether any of the lull has to do with the upcoming 2.0 software and impending iPhone App Store launch.  Whether there are a large number of jailbreak developers who are currently shifting their attention further towards ‘crossover’ apps and much less towards jailbreak creations.”


Fact is– there are some early indications that that is EXACTLY what is happening.
Programs such as Moo Cow Music’s Band, which allows you to create, mix and record music on your iPhone or iPod Touch, was a staple of the Installer.app world. It will soon be released via the iTunes AppStore. Guess where future development on it will focus?

Similarly, while there are a number of iPhone-optimized site that allow access to eBay, there will soon be a resident version released by eBay that will bring more power and flexibility than ever before. Which will you prefer to use?

Moreover, the Associated Press, who recently released its web application, will soon be releasing a resident application, as well. Which do you see getting more use?

All this suggests that the thrust of development efforts will soon be moving toward resident applications.

Personally, I am not all that concern about the future of Installer.app programs. My experience with jailbreaking my iPhone lasted all of 2 hours. I jail-broke my 8GB iPhone, played with some applications and then re-locked it. There just weren’t enough of the programs that I NEEDED on Installer.app for me to leave my phone jailbroken.

Web-based applications are quite a different story, however. The iPhone was groundbreaking with regard to web-based computing. It totally changed my work habits in this regard (more on this in the near future). I truly believe web-based  computing is the future of computing and I would hate to see the progress slowed by a complete return to the “old” model.  My hope, as we move into the next phase in mobile-computing iPhone-style is that after the initial rush into 3rd Party applications we will see the two, web-based and resident-based programs developing in parallel with an equal emphasis being placed on both. I truly want the best of both worlds and I think we, the iPhone users, deserve it.