Rumor: IPhone Apps Coming Soon As Dashboard Widgets

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Picture by hansdorsch

I heard a rumor today that Apple is shortly going to allow third-party applications on the iPhone. They won’t be full applications, however: they’ll be Desktop Widgets.
You will soon be able to drag any Dashboard Widget into iTunes, and they’ll sync with the iPhone, the source said.

To run on the iPhone and provide interactivity, they’ll require JavaScript, which means the iPhone will shortly get a Java update. When? The source didn’t say.

But the source did say that Apple hasn’t released iPhone widgets yet because Java has proven to be a major draw on battery power. Presumably, Apple has figured out how to tackle this problem. How? Again, the source didn’t say.

In OS X, Widgets are like mini web pages that run in Dashboard instead of a web browser. According to Apple’s Developer website, they’re a mix of HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

Unfortunately, this is all I know. I promised not to reveal the source of the rumor, but they’re well-placed. This is coming from just one source, via a third-person, so I’m only 70 percent confident it’s true. When I worked at MacWeek, we’d never publish rumors as news until it had been confirmed by at least three separate sources.

However, the redoubtable Glenn Fleischman reports for TidBits that Apple is getting near to making third-party applications available for the iPhone. Glenn has no details, but suggests the release is imminent.

UPDATE: As readers kindly point out, I’m confusing Java with JavaScriot: two separate technologies that share a name. The iPhone already has JavaScript, but not Java, so nothing would need to be added for Dashboard Widgets to work. Thanks for the feedback.

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  • Jesse

    ‘Tis JavaScript in Widgets, not Java. A stupid name, which has led to many mistakes, including yours. But Java and JavaScript are completely unrelated.

    Widget support on the iPhone makes sense. Safari runs on it, after all. Java, a whole ‘nother story, and I think it’ll be a long wait for Java on the iPhone.

  • Arnaud

    You are confusing java and javascript, which have nothing in common (but the name). Widgets are a mix of HTML, javascript and CSS, as correctly stated on ADW. No need for java in all this.

  • Samuel

    Java != JavaScript.

    MobileSafari already runs JavaScript, and as WebKit (Safari’s engine) is the foundation of Dashboard Widgets as well, there should be no need for anything additional at all.

    JavaScript is one of the foundations for making “Web 2.0″ apps, which was Steve’s generous offer for 3rd party devs, as we all remember.

  • chao

    I think you’re mixing up Java and JavaScript which are completely different technologies (that share confusingly similar names)

  • DeadParrot

    Java != Javascript

    Java has virtually nothing to do with JavaScript (as a language, runtime, security model, etc.). Completely different.

    JavaScript is already on the iPhone (& iPod Touch) in Safari.

  • DeadParrot

    Also, Widgets use JavaScript, not Java.

  • Drew Caster

    JavaScript or Java? There’s a *big* difference between the two. The iPhone (via Safari) already does JavaScript. Java is a whole different animal.

  • Josh

    When he says “virtually nothing” he means “nothing”.

    Wikipedia sums it up nicely:
    “Despite the name, JavaScript is unrelated to the Java programming language; though both have a common debt to C syntax. The language was renamed from LiveScript in a co-marketing deal between Netscape and Sun in exchange for Netscape bundling Sun’s Java runtime with their browser, which was dominant at the time. JavaScript semantics is much more similar to the Self programming language.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J

  • coljac

    Java is a drain on battery power… Hehe, I had a little chuckle at this story.

    I’m afraid there’s nothing to this at all, as others have noted there’s no prospect of Java on the iPhone, and Javascript is already there. Widgets would be nice but not the SDK that everyone is hoping for.

  • Josh

    Also, by “Desktop Widget” do you mean a Dashboard widget?

    PS. I Love reading the blog. But usually it’s that Pete Mortensen fella who makes all the factual mistakes. ;)

  • Mat Hall

    Bah, too late to chip in with “Java isn’t JavaScript”. Damn. :)

  • Woody

    Wow .. if you didn’t even know that Java isn’t related to JavaScript you probably shouldn’t be writing about web technologies at all.

  • Excessionist

    That “Java has proven to be a major draw on battery power” has apparently not been noticed by other cell phone manufacturers, who have happily supplied Java on much smaller devices for years. Today, Java is an excellent way of delivering mobile applications, with more or less equal performance to native apps. If you don’t believe that, do check out the Opera web browser for mobiles, which compares favorably in speed and features with native browsers.

    In fact, the absolutely dominating battery drain on a mobile is the display, and in particular the back light, and secondly, the power needed to transmit radio to the cell base station. Runnning the processor at full steam is a minor load compared to these.

  • Benjamin

    Well, if “the source did say that Apple hasn’t released iPhone widgets yet because Java has proven to be a major draw on battery power”, then the source doesn’t know what they are talking about since, as many pointed out, Java does not equal Javascript.

    It would be a logical way for Apple to allow third party apps since, I believe, both the Stocks and Weather iPhone apps are basically just existing OS X widgets modified to work on the iPhone.

    Ben

  • Brad

    “But the source did say that Apple hasn’t released iPhone widgets yet because Java has proven to be a major draw on battery power”

    Hmm, sounds like your source doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Still rate this as 70%?

  • lolec

    quote”I’m confusing Java with JavaScriot:” Java Scrot… haha sorry. Good Article

  • Lepton

    I was predicting you could use DashCode to create widgets for iPhone back before they announced the phone. Then when iPhone came without it, I figured they HAD to announce DashCode widgets at the last WWDC. [As seen in my blog at http://lepton68.wordpress.com] Now I say they will come with Leopard. It’s a no-brainer!

    In fact it is such a no-brainer I think this was planned for the intro of iPhone from the beginning, and what messed it up was the delay of Leopard. Back when both were planned, they were going to appear relatively close to each other.

    So as planned from the start, we will see Leopard with a DashCode app that will be able to create iPhone widgets. And I think this is a decent way to make iPhone apps with good security.

  • sam w

    Managing editor at Wired magazine doesn’t know the difference between Java and Javascript (nor his “70%” source, apparently)? Obviously time to update the prospective employee interview quiz!

  • roxjazma

    His urging, we waited. You re beinghonest, bisexual eva mendes naked and pulled them off.

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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