Some Apple press events are full of surprises. Others are...surprisingly dull. Today's iPhone software event was one of the few that was neither of the above. The news involved a lot of things that were not shocking-in some cases because of leaks in the last few days, and in some cases because they simply made sense. (Even the implementation of Microsoft's ActiveSync on the iPhone is just so darn logical that it felt natural and obvious.)
But in this case, the logical was also exciting. Which is why I came away mostly enthusiastic about the day's news and the future of this platform. Even the most controversial aspect of all this-that Apple wants to be the only distributor of native iPhone apps-seems more good than bad given that the App Store looks to be by far the best software delivery system ever devised for a mobile device. An awful lot of iPhone users are going to want applications of all sorts, and they're going to go to the App Store to get them. If I were a software developer, I'd be champing at the bit to reach 'em that way, not grumbling that I can't sell software directly. (On the other hand, I presume that third-party phone software resellers like Handango are bummed out by the prospect of being denied access to the iPhone ecosystem.
So twelve hours after the event ended, I'm
1. Where was Microsoft? Today's event included a parade of representatives from other companies-EA, Salesforce.com, AOL, Epocrates, Sega-applauding the day's news. But the most surprising development to come out of the event was fact that Apple is building support for Microsoft's ActiveSync into the iPhone-and no Microsoft exec graced the stage. There wasn't even a slide of enthusiastic boilerplate support from the behemoth of Redmond. Did Apple not want Microsoft there? Did Microsoft not want to be there? I dunno.
2. What, no iChat? The iPhone's SMS application looks like the Mac's iChat, but it's texting, not instant messaging. Until today, I was assuming-or at least hoping
3. What'll be prohibited? When Steve Jobs explained that all third-party native iPhone apps would be distributed
4. How will companies know if their programs are verboten? Sounds like nobody will bother to write porn, spyware, VoIP-over-cell, or unlocking apps under the assumption that Apple will distribute them. But how about, say, a photo-sharing app which might or might not be unacceptably piggy from a bandwidth standpoint? Will anybody write useful and interesting apps and then discover it's impossible to get them to customers?
5. Will anyone figure out how to distribute iPhone apps without going through Apple? Probably. Will Apple do its damndest to make it hard, possibly through software updates that obstruct any alternate routes onto the phone or which disable apps that have snuck their way there already? Probably.