This is brand new big shit, but

Jason Fried ended his enthusiastic post on the iPhone SDK with those words (I added the ,but). And so it is. Very big shit. But there are a few things that I just don’t understand about Apple’s iPhone strategy.

Why put all these great hooks in for enterprise IT when the iPhone still only operates on one network here in the US? Do you think Morgan Stanley is going to get locked in to AT&T just to outfit all of their investment bankers with iPhones? I don’t think so.

And where are the social hooks? Can you establish social networks and build a social graph via the iPhone SDK? If not, why? If so, where is that outlined? I read over a dozen posts on the iPhone SDK and I didn’t see the world social in any of them. The phone is the most personal (and therefore social) device in the world. There’s got to be social hooks in something like this.

And what’s with "all apps must be sold and distributed via the app store"? I understand that it’s most convenient for users to have a single place (like iTunes) where they can search for, find, buy, and install apps. But to lock developers into that as the single and only way to get apps on the iPhone is not the right thinking in my book.

On the plus side, the gaming opportunities are mind blowing. As Daring Fireball says in his post (the best of the ones I read):

The unique control options — no traditional buttons but a 3D
accelerometer and multi-touch screen — make the iPhone analogous to the
Wii, in that it opens up new concepts in game UI design.

Apple is revolutionizing the mobile device market in the same way they flipped the music business on it’s head. But like they did in the music market, they aren’t going all the way. And I just wish they would.

Disclosure: I am long APPL and getting longer.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. daryn

    While I haven’t seen much mention of social in coverage of the SDK, I did notice it mentioned in regards to the iFund:”Focus areas include location based services, social networking, mCommerce (including advertising and payments), communication, and entertainment.” (…Besides existing social graph interactions, I think there’s opportunity for some interesting proximity based social applications, taking some of the concepts the zune has to the next level.

    1. charlie crystle

      one thing at a time fred. SDKs take time to evolve, as do models and platforms.

  2. Michael J.

    It’s unlikely it will be ATT exclusive forever. They’re building a platform, so once the ecosystem is built out, and the ATT contract expires, go wide.There aren’t any social hooks in my Mac either, except that it connects to websites and the Internet….

  3. Dan Cornish

    I just noticed that Bonjour is enabled in the iPhone SDK. This means that any iPhone within WiFi range can discover and communicate with another iPhone or Mac for that matter. Talk about social. Two of my developers are not sleeping this weekend to brew some proof of concepts up, these guys are just so pumped.

  4. DonRyan

    As a lifelong Blackberry user Exchange was one of the roadblocks between me and the iPhone. As that’s been removed, the ATT network is the only think left that would stop me from considering an iPhone. If they open it up, it will be huge.

  5. whitneymcn

    Fred -Hasn’t clicked for me yet: what hardware/software characteristics would make the iPhone itself (or a device in general, really), rather than its apps, social for you? Daryn and Dan tossed out a couple of ideas, — are things like access to the phone location data and bonjour discovery the sorts of things you want to see, or something different?

    1. fredwilson

      Maybe you are thinking about this right and I am not.But if you look at the facebook platform, there are hooks built into it thatmake it easy for people to share what they are doing with each otherThat should exist on phones toofred

      1. whitneymcn

        I’m actually not sure how I’m thinking about it yet… :)My gut reaction, though, is that data openness is the key to a social device. The more data that developers can access via the SDK, the more social possibilities open up: access to phone call history and data allows for a class of really interesting social development, access to the full iPod data extends the existing social music work onto the iPhone/Touch, etc.

        1. fredwilson

          And since I have not been into the sdk myself, how does it deliver (or not) on that?Fred

          1. whitneymcn

            I’m not a registered developer, so I haven’t got access to a lot of docs yet, but from other sources I understand that there are good hooks for at least the address book, mail, and location — not sure about call data (which seems like a really interesting area).

          2. Josh Fraser

            Fred,I’ve been digging around in the SDK all morning and it seems to deliver well on giving access to the core functionality. So while there are not any “social hooks” there are plenty of ways for developers to create social applications on top of the iphone. For example, they give full access to your contacts list, your triangulated location, your music, your pictures… almost everything. Basically — we’re not going to have any problems developing social apps for this thing.

          3. Randy Noval

            right. the device does not (nor should it) ever have “social hooks”. to define those would be to limit what other people’s creativity can come up with. here’s a quick couple thoughts: – using the location aware portion (i.e. triangulation by cell tower location), google maps, online access to a profile (e.g., easily see other people in your bar and send them a message – pulling in exchange contact info and location data to ping you when someone you know is nearby – build a platform on to which other developers can easy create “social apps”i’d suggest that this SDK is much more like PHP which enables Facebook to run than Facebook itself. maybe someone will create a social app with the SDK.

          4. fredwilson

            As vampire weekend says, ‘I stand corrected’Very excited about this new platformHoping they open it up a bit more on the hardware and networkFred

  6. Jon

    I don’t know if other firms do this, but our IT dept purges anything on our Blackberries that could be considered “social”. No IM or SMS. They prevent us from pushing our personal e-mail to our work Blackberries. If other firms do this, then all those new apps for an iPhone will just be one more headache for IT to get rid of. And that keyboard — looks good but is it really built for heavy e-mail users? There is no way any large business will pay for their employees to listen to music or watch uTube.

  7. bb

    “And where are the social hooks? Can you establish social networks and build a social graph via the iPhone SDK? If not, why? If so, where is that outlined? I read over a dozen posts on the iPhone SDK and I didn’t see the world social in any of them. The phone is the most personal (and therefore social) device in the world. There’s got to be social hooks in something like this.”Fred, I read your blog and enjoy the interesting posts and discussions. However, this statement and fundamental lack of understanding of software engineering by a person who invests in technology is a bit scary. A social API? What the hell is that? All the hooks are there to create a social platform if one wants to (or extend an existing social platform): contacts API, network API, UI.I’m sorry but I think someone explained Facebook’s API/platform to you and you either misunderstood or they didn’t know what they were talking about. Yes, Facebook (and other SNs with APIs) created a new layer of “social API” and value but the only real value they deliver to a developer is a way to deploy an app on a platform that has users (or identities and relationships to be more specific)…in essence, the address book. The iPhone already has that in their address book.

    1. fredwilson

      ThanksThat’s helpfulFred

  8. bb

    One additional comment on the corporate email item: Yes, Blackberry’s initial uptake was purchase and distribution by IT depts but most of RIM’s recent growth and the way most of the devices are deployed today as by individual purchases (remember that most of early uptake was in finance and most of recent growth is outside of that). IT depts might buy and support execs or a certain tier of employee but after that they “bless” certain devices that individuals can purchase. If they have a BB server in house then others can buy a Pearl or other RIM device and IT will hook it up.The iPhone, by hooking into EAS, will be deployed mostly in the same way. I worked for Palm for some time and this was how Palm got into the enterprise (the individual pro-sumer purchasing and IT hooking it up). We were blocked for years by some IT depts until we had EAS support on the Treo. That spiked deployments and will do the same for the iPhone. So the comment about “MS outfitting all their bankers with iPhones” is not the issue. They won’t. The bankers will buy them and if MS supports EAS they will hook them up.In regard to the AT&T lock-in that is a hurdle that they will need to get over soon mostly focusing on a CDMA version with VZW. I suspect VZW will want a pound of flesh or, at a minimum, won’t give up the control the way AT&T did. That renders the carriers as dump pipes which they are but they don’t yet realize it…certainly not VZW.

  9. DanInCambridge

    Snooze.I am waiting for Android based devices.

    1. fredwilson

      From what I hear from developers android isn’t close to iphone sdk in terms of maturity of code and features.Apple has done this very well it seems and google now has to work doubly hard to catch up. And it will take timeFred

  10. matt schulte

    does it say “all apps must be sold and distributed via the app store”, or does it say “all apps must be sold and distributed via the app store only”

  11. MParekh

    Fred, the Facebook Web App on the iPhone is already a way to do “social graph” stuff on the iPhone today. Presumably other social networks like MySpace, etc., will have iPhone version of their apps out soon with the SDK.The silver lining in the app store from my perspective is that Apple will distribute third party apps for free. There’s a possibility that a lot of third party developers will make free versions of their mainstream applications available on the iPhone, to encourage purchases for PC/Macs, game consoles, etc.

    1. scott crawford

      Excellent point Michal. The distributor aspect (including free apps and not only paid) is a major plus for individual developers. So many possibilities for sharing and the social roaming/herding that inspires.

  12. Joe Lazarus

    I agree with some of the other comments that developers could make all sorts of interesting social apps using the address book and other features that they covered in the announcement yesterday. I also agree with Fred that huge, global companies aren’t going to dive in just yet (but that could change over time if they extend beyond AT&T, etc).I think the first break-out, killer app is going to make use of the core location feature. I can think of a hundred innovative apps to build using the iPhone’s geo-locaiton data… auto geo-tag your photos, alerts from people on your buddy list who are nearby, etc. People have been talking about that stuff for years, but this is the first time the functionality will be available on such a wide scale. Location is the new social.

    1. whitneymcn

      Joe -Totally agree. I wrote about exactly that a couple of weeks ago: even just for the “existing thing++” ideas there’s pretty cool potential.Vindigo++, where the app already knows exactly where you are immediately. For extra points, add functionality so that users can “watch” for specific things and either silently record them or receive active notification. (Periodically record the bookstores, sushi restaurants, and coffee shops within 1/2 mile of wherever I happen to be, so that I have the lists available to me without having to search. Actively notify me any time I am within 1/4 mile of an Apple store.)Dodgeball/Twitter++, where geolocation data is automatically appended to your posts and available to your social circle. You choose to be notified when people are within X of you, or just check the map to see where your friends are (just imagine the multitouch map drilldown effect that a good interface designer could put on top of that…).So many possibilities…

      1. whitneymcn

        D’oh. My lunchtime reading just came up with a potentially big gotcha — Arrington has been reading the iPhone HIG doc and came across this:”Only one iPhone application can run at a time, and third-party applications never run in the background. This means that when users switch to another application, answer the phone, or check their email, the application they were using quits. (p. 16)”There goes the “opportunistic notification” branch of app development that I was interested in.

  13. Chris Phenner

    I quietly pushed live a developer program this week with my company — we’ve had a dozen developers register for API keys and one launched within two days — I mention this because I am obsessing over developer programs’ user experiences, and iPhone’s SDK registration flow was perfectly-timed, and I went through it firsthand. I am not a developer, but I “play one on phone calls,” having worked with dozens of firms directly to integrate API/XML-based implementations prior to automating the process.Many are writing about “the possibilities,” but I am looking at the (perhaps simple, pedestrian) experience around how one can get involved and what hoops one needs to jump through to get started. I walked through the registration, was able to use my iTunes ID/password, and admired the oh-so-clean design of the signup wizard — anticipation mounted.What a confusing and frustrating mess.I have been delivered to this screen for the last FOUR HOURS:”We are processing your request. Please wait a few moments then refresh this page.””…going all they way…” (!?) How about going at all?

  14. RacerRick

    That iPhone cannot replace the blackberry until they get a decent keyboard. Impossible to send a whole bunch of emails with the iPhone but simple with the Blackberry.

    1. Soenke Dohrn

      The iPhone’s camera will be combined with a laser that projects a keyboard onto any surface in any size desired. Technology has been round for years and I bet Apple will integrate it in the iPhone at some stage.

  15. mdoeff

    I’d like to see a slick Twitter client built for iPhone that hooked into my Address Book and also told me which of my contacts were in my geographical area based on their location.

  16. Soenke Dohrn

    Dear Fred!Apple does one thing increadibly well: reducing complexity for the end-user while still having incredible capable stuff. They only can do so by maintaining power over key components. With the iPhone it is the interface and it shouldn’t be defracted by Vodafone and T-Mobile and O2 and AT&T and whoever running their own piece of software for differentiation purposes, I guess.How many Internet companies are there these days? How many use resources from Google, Amazon, etc. instead of buying the infrastructure? So why not develop a software against a proven distribution channel? No need for big marketing department then, but franchising the distribution channel, instead. Of course it is less attractive to a VC to invest in such a company, but we are well beyond product and process innovation these days anyhow, so I wouldn’t make my bet on a that being a set-back, if that start-up company understood how to play their game right.Social networks? Ah, c’mon, they are all crap. Just name me one which allows me to map my social graph completely. Which one shows me the added-value of certain connections? Which one shows me where to look for positive friction? Where can I select network instances (private, academic, professional) see which ones overlap, so I can hook up for a beer and have a chat when I am in town? None of them actively help me in self-orginising my knowledge network. What do I want to get out of social networks but knowledge anyhow? This requirement is nothing new but existed since the very first day of social networks, so why all the investors’ billions when there is so very little use? Can’t really see the business case – isn’t that a much debated question around your circles anyhow? ;)I believe, that the iPhone will be the first plattform to create such a network. Firstly, it will self-organise your network against your network settings by combining address book’s vcard’s+FOAF or similar microformat mechanism, secondly its interface paradigm allows you to navigate through knowledge and knowledge sources in a fashion no facebook app will ever be capable of (touch+gestures+mobility!).Innovation starts with ideas – there is simply no SDK/API that allows for so many ideas than the iPhone.Kind regardsSoenke

  17. Shane Vitarana

    I don’ think having a centralized place to distribute apps is a bad idea. It works on Facebook. It makes lives easier for developers, and puts everyone on a level playing field. Apps will be judged by reviews in the AppStore, so it won’t necessarily be based on the advertising budget of a company with the funds.I have already built one app on the platform and can’t wait for the store to launch.