A lot of tech commentators seem disappointed that the iPad feels more like an evolutionary step than a revolutionary step. For one group of technologists, though, the iPad is an opportunity for revolution, to take center stage in creating experiences users will want, and even want to buy.
The iPad is all about consuming content, but most of the conversation about that content has seen it in traditional silos:
- Audio, through iTunes
- Video, also through iTunes
- iPhone apps (and now iPad apps), through the App Store
- Books, through iBooks
- The Web, the most open of these options.
The last of those options, however, can incorporate all of the rest – even the iPhone applications. Given the space on the iPad screen and the reported speed of its A4 processor, web design is actually the easiest way to create applications for the iPad.
Web design? On the iPad? Wasn’t that the bad idea Apple originally had for the iPhone, before they were overwhelmed with requests for a real SDK?
Well, yes. The early iPhone development environments felt maybe too sandboxed. A lot of features now available in Mobile Safari were only starting to develop, and key tools for connecting to features of the iPhone not typically found then in web browsers (vibration, accelerometer, geolocation) didn’t exist. Learning Objective C made sense at the time.
Moving to the iPad shouldn’t be difficult. As the PhoneGap folks tweeted:
for those unsure, iPad is @phonegap compatible out of the box.
There are, of course, ways Apple could make this difficult. They could have locked web-based apps into the iPhone size, but fortunately that doesn’t seem to be a problem. They could also block PhoneGap based applications from the App Store, as they once did, though they seem to have
gotten over that a few months ago. Even if they were to cause trouble, however, it would just block one possible revenue stream – the web browser itself would still be open for business. I don’t think even Apple can close that down.
I expect music and to some extent video to stay in iTunes or similar venues. Terrified book publishers who want their DRM will likely stay in the iBooks zone, though hopefully Apple will let braver publishers in there without DRM. Customers will expect to find “books” there. It’s also clear that there will always be applications, notably games, which demand native code – Objective C on the iPad – to achieve the fastest possible response time, draw intricate graphics, or bind tightly to iPad features. There’s a future for all of those things, in their particular venues.
But for “content”, especially content that combines text with audio, video, pictures, and interactivity, web-style development has a tremendous advantage.
Arise, web developers! Our time has come to dominate!