Thoughts from the iPhone Developers Summit

While in New York City this week, I happened to attend the (first?) iPhone Developer Summit, thanks to a free pass and a little wiggle room in my schedule.

I didn’t go because I am planning to learn Objective C and develop for the iPhone. I went because I wanted to see what the developer community is thinking, and I have to say I was impressed with what I saw. I sat in on a session about the new iPhone SDK and the audience looked almost to me like a group of doctors that are sitting in a room to learn about electronic health records and realizing that their lives are going to change.

There was discussion of the iPhone platform, which has far more computing power and graphics capability than any other handheld that has preceded it, coupled with the fact that Apple, Inc., has made it easier than ever for developers to distribute their applications quickly and efficiently through iTunes. Nothing like this has ever existed on other mobile platforms.

I sensed a tone of quiet resignation coupled with excitement that this will be the next revolution in computing. At the same time, the teaching was about the very basics of developing for the iPhone so it’s very early in the journey. I learned a few things, like the fact that the iPhone you use to develop on will need to be disconnected from the AT&T cellular network, so basically you will need to purchase a phone specifically for development. The SDK requires that you have a Mac running Leopard – you cannot develop on a Windows box. And an interesting revelation that was not well covered previously – the iPod Touch is also a platform for this SDK. This means that an enterprise developer could create internal applications that run off of Wi-Fi, decoupled from phone service. That’s a big deal.

After taking in this scene, I wandered with a colleague over to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, which provided more evidence of a transformation coming. The store was packed beyond all recognition. There was a long feeder line of customers waiting to buy things. And yet the store made all of the products available to customers and potential customers to enjoy at their leisure.

There’s something going on here. Click on any of the pictures to see them full size, and the video below to get a sense yourself.

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I'm just wondering how many people at this conference were Mac developers? I've heard about it through various channels but I haven't heard of any major Mac developers who have talked about it, so it'd be interesting to know if most of the people were actually new to Cocoa.

That's a very good question. I didn't have a sense from the comments in the audience – I think there were definitely handheld developers that were moving to iPhone, or at least catching the wave. For that group, it makes sense, with the better economics and capabilities of this device, in my opinion.

I think what we'll sea come June will be an announcement from Apple with a massive list of native apps for us. News like this about developers high interest is very exciting.

I just had to comment because it is rare to see another Eytan, let alone spelled like I spell my name….

Dude… not as exclusive as us deBronkarts…

Seriously, though, I can easily imagine all kinds of useful sensors (blood pressure, glucose, thermometer, heart rate, oximeter) plugging into an iPod Touch or iPhone via USB, and transmitting their news to the mother ship somewhere.

Next question: who's going to invent something so damned smart that it can detect slight but significant perturbations in bodily data, turning the iPhone into a WellMeter? Or, more likely, turning it into a multi-function remote sensor for a big smart wellness monitor? (A bi-directional one, btw.)

I keep thinking of SFox's Go Mobile, egged on by the reality that a lot of the world is cellular not webbed – especially the economically disadvantaged. And that leads me to wonder about a $99 Apple health sensor.

Exactly, and since the iPhone does bluetooth and Wi-fi, who even needs to plug the device in.

Actually I need some slogan help…I'll send you an note.

Ted Eytan, MD