iPhoneDevCamp, iPhone, Safari and Microformats

July 7, 2007

I wish I could attend iPhoneDevCamp but unfortunately I won’t be in the area (or in the right country for that matter ;-) ).

I just read Chris’ post about iPhoneDevCamp and I think these are the right reasons to make the iPhoneDevCamp.

There are a few facts that support Chris’ view:

  • In the first week Apple sold 700,000 units
  • The iPhone is closed for outside application, but not for web applications
  • Having a couple of million units out (after it is also sold in Europe and Asia) means there are a couple of million users using Safari on their iPhone and want to get the right experience in all/most sites.

The day I heard that the iPhone will be closed to 3rd party apps but will use web applications as its main extension approach I thought one thing. Apple should make Safari (or at least just Safari on the iPhone) Microformats aware.

Since the main interaction of users with 3rd party application on the iPhone is through web sites, extracting as much meaning as possible from such a web site will give iPhone users the best experience. For example, if I had an hCalendar someone in a site, or an hCard, if Safari on the iPhone (or Safari in general) would have Microformats support I could quickly add the meeting or contact information to my iPhone with one click (arrr, is it click or touch?)

If Apple will do that at some point in the future, it means that the Microformats community will gain a couple of million users which might in turn convince web site designers to support Microformats.

Microformats are exactly the small and right amount of standardization that can make the web a better place for both users and developers.

It seems that Microformats becomes more important in smaller devices where the ability to extend their applications and the devices itself is usually limited and input is measured as the smallest and shortest action one should take to make something happen.

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posted in Apple, Thoughts by Eran Sandler

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  • http://www.ekampf.com/blog/ Eran Kampf

    I think there’s one big reason not to make such a camp – Apple.
    Its blocking 3rd party apps, not providing too many technical details, its not even showing presence at such a dev camp aimed at helping adoption of its own product (http://scobleizer.com/2007/07/06/why-microsoft-outplays-apple-long-term/)

    Its basically giving the dev community the finger so why should we take it?

  • http://eran.sandler.co.il Eran

    Actually, I wouldn’t look at it that way.

    3rd party apps are not necessarily a good thing in such devices. Just look at all those Windows mobile devices and their apps. Some of them can wreck havoc. This is also true to Symbian based phones (like the Nokia E61 I have).

    There are quite a few down sides in having direct access to the operating system and its mainly to avoid corrupting the device. iPod is as closed as the iPhone, yet some applications did manage to show up in some of the newer firmwares, mainly due to an agreement with Apple.

    Nokia also has a certification program which you must pass to install and run the app or disable a certain warning setting on your phone to make unapproved apps work (which most users don’t know how to do or won’t to so their phone won’t freak out).

    I can understand why Apple wanted their device to work without crapping out like most smart phones (not only Windows based ones). I remember seeing somewhere that Steve talked about the fact that certain apps will get to the iPhone after a certification process, so such a think might still be in the works.

    I’m not that big of an Apple fan, but they did show at least in one case (iPod) that not having additional software on the device itself can be good enough for most people.

    How many people do you know that are not geeks or savvy enough and installed more than 2 apps on their smart phones (excluding Windows based onces, since you must install things to make them actually workable…)? Heck, I usually get tired after the first couple of weeks and rarely touches the phone to install new stuff.

    Regarding Apple not releasing information, check out this:
    http://developer.apple.com/iphone/designingcontent.html

    These are design guidelines to make web sites work as good as they can with Safari on the iPhone.
    More than you need to make sure your web apps works fine on the iPhone.

    As Chris said, this is not only iPhone dev camp, but a good opportunity to make web applications play nicer and in a more standardized way. Selling 700,000 units in one week and reaching millions soon (I assume) will make a lot of people go online with a specific type of browser.

    Since this browser supports most of the needed standards (relatively), making sites work with it will make all sites better in general.

    All in all, there is a growing approach these days to make things more web enabled figuring out that browsers today are more than what they used to be. Not having direct operating system access is not giving the finger to developers. It’s realizing that there is a new type of applications that show be targeted to such devices and can make little to know harm.

    I’m sure Apple might need to change things a bit and maybe even supply JavaScript access to some of the functionality of the iPhone, but only time will tell I guess :-)

  • http://www.nickpeters.net Nick Peters

    I think the iPhone, or all mobile devices rather would benefit greatly from microformats. As mobile devices become smaller and smaller input becomes more difficult. Having to use the small keypad or T9 interface to input names and numbers is such a pain. Microformats could alleviate that pain by having this action become point and click (or hover and touch?). I think the firefox plugin “Operator” is a great example of how useful microformats can be in this context. Imagine if Operator-like functionality was on the iPhone; we could add people to our contact list or add events to our calendar.
    However, I think we should stop focusing solely on the iPhone and encourage software designers for mobile devices in general to embrace microformats. Remember, there’s a version of opera that is meant for mobile devices. That would be a good start, right?

  • http://eran.sandler.co.il Eran

    Nick, you are correct that the iPhone shouldn’t be the sole focus of this and that’s exactly what Chris said.
    It’s just easier to attract people when they hear “iPhone” :-)

    An Opera version that supports Microformats is great, but it won’t solve the iPhone problem :-).
    iPhone’s browser – Safari – is built on the WebKit open source library (which is also the basis for Nokia’s default phone browser). This might be a good place to add microformats support and have it included in major build of both the iPhone and Nokia phones.

 
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