Enough of my dumb opinions. I thought it would be interesting to find out what some Mac and iPhone developers make of the iPad. What are their first impressions? What do they intend to make for the iPad platform? Do they have any concerns?
I got in touch with a whole bunch of developer contacts and asked them if they’d like to share their thoughts with you, the Cult readers.
Here are the replies I got.
Ken Case of OmniGroup revealed that the company is working on iPad versions of apps like OmniFocus and OmniGraffle:
“We’re really excited about Apple’s iPad, and are looking forward to updating OmniFocus to take advantage of the larger screen size. We’re also looking at creating iPad adaptations of several of our other productivity apps, such as OmniGraffle.”
Manton Reece of Riverfold Software (maker of Clipstart and Wii Transfer):
“I was so annoyed with the closed nature of the App Store that I stopped developing for the iPhone. The iPad will still have those frustrations, but the large screen opens up a whole new class of applications. It’s impossible to resist.”
Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems (maker of Tinderbox):
“The iPad announcement leaves many things unclear. Does iWork depend on private APIs, or will developers be able to write first-class applications? Will individual books be subject the the approval process — leaving 40 overworked Apple employees the additional task of approving or rejecting books an magazines?
“Since 1982, Eastgate’s been publishing original hypertext fiction and nonfiction. These works — many of which are now studied in universities throughout the world — can’t be printed and can’t be simulated in ePub. But, if we bring them to iPad, would that be vetoed as duplicating the built-in book functionality?
“In short, the app store is a source of grave concern for software developers. That said, the iPad is the most exciting personal computing development for a decade. It will transform our notion of computing and redefine the idea of the information appliance.”
Rory Prior of Thinkmac Software (maker of NewsLife, Instant Gallery and others):
“I have slightly mixed feelings about the iPad, it looks like it has a lot of potential. But I don’t think that we’ll see that potential fully realised until there is a strong catalogue of optimised software built for it. From a development point of view it seems pretty exciting. It will present some interesting new interface design challenges and I think that it will start to blur the divide between desktop and mobile software. It’s clear from the outset that with so much screen real estate, a lot of iPhone applications won’t easily make the transition without some real thought being put into their redesign. Widget like apps may find themselves redundant on the iPad altogether due to its more desktop like web browsing experience. Indeed judging from the photos on Apple’s website, they appear to have stripped a number of the basic widgets from the iPad that ship on the iPhone (Weather, Stocks, Calculator etc).”
James Thomson of TLA Systems (maker of PCalc and DragThing):
“I think the iPad marks the beginning of the end of the Mac / PC wars – insofar as they will both lose. I believe that the iPhone OS is going to be Apple’s focus in the long term, and most consumers who don’t need or understand general purpose computers will end up with a device like the iPad. The Mac will become more and more of a “Pro” product going forward. People who say “well, I can’t run Xcode on it, so I’m not buying one” are kind of missing the point. The iPad is to the Macintosh, as the Macintosh was to the Apple II. Anyway, enough punditry.
“From a developer perspective it looks very interesting, and quite a challenge to do things well. Getting PCalc to run on the iPad as it stands is practically zero effort. Getting it to run well might require a total rewrite of the UI. Ironically, the applications which are the best designed to make use of the limited screen space of an iPhone will probably have the most work to scale up to a screen the size of the iPad.
“And, ‘scale up’ is exactly what you don’t want to do for an iPad version. PCalc on a 1024×768 screen with massive buttons just looks silly – trust me. Sure, the iPad-native buttons will be well-rendered – unlike in a blurry pixel-doubled iPhone app – but the UI will still be poorly suited to a screen of that size. Good developers will need to go back to first principles regarding their interfaces – to present more information, not just present it on a bigger scale.
“iPhones have not enough screen space. iPads, if anything, have too much. I’m still hopeful that iPhone OS 4.0 might bring some form of multitasking story. PCalc would make much more sense as a desk accessory within other apps, rather than a fullscreen 1024×768 app. I don’t even do that on the desktop.
“At the moment, I’m still just digesting things. I will undoubtedly make a version of PCalc for the iPad, but as of today I don’t know exactly what that will look like. Still, 59 days left and counting…“
Brent Simmons of Newsgator Technologies (maker of NetNewsWire):
“I’ve been hit by a love taser. I would do crazy things to get an iPad. Luckily all I have to do is wait a little bit — and I don’t even have to wait to start developing for it.”
Eric Boehnisch-Volkmann of Devon Technologies (makers of DevonThink, DevonNote and others):
“We like the idea of the iPad, especially given the fact that it uses an already existing user interface that is perfectly suited for touch-driven devices. Whether the iPhone UI makes any sense on a larger screen like the iPad’s we will see, but for the end user it will be a much better user experience than using a desktop OS like Mac OS X on a tablet.
“What we see coming is that users will demand the power of desktop applications such as DEVONthink but on the iPad. On the iPhone we cannot use our resource-intensive AI technology but on a later iPad it could be possible. If this makes sense, performance and business wise, we will need to determine. Our first step is now to prepare our forthcoming iPhone offerings also to the new requirements of the iPad.”
Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software (maker of MarsEdit and others):
“My take on the iPad is it’s following Apple’s now tried-and-true practice of revolutionizing in a slow, deliberate pace. There is an element of awe, but mostly it’s being met with disappointment. Because it doesn’t toast bread, or zap space aliens, or whatnot. The same kinds of reactions accompanied the release of the iPhone, when ‘obvious’ stuff like copy & paste, flash, voice dialing, etc., were omitted.
“It’s this tendency to stick to a refined feature list and do it well which bodes well for the future of the iPad. It can be evaluated in isolation: is it a useful device that offers to solve workflows in new, exciting ways? Yes. But more importantly, it’s the stepping off point towards what we can’t even yet imagine. It’s the large-format showcase for Apple’s touch operating system, and we can see now that this will be a dominant part of Apple’s technology stance over the next many years.
“I will not be surprised, for example, to see the touch ‘iPhone OS’ merge with traditional Mac OS X over the next few years. More and more I think Apple will observe that the redundancies between the two systems need to be merged. When you’ve got a tablet-sized touch computer, sometimes you want a keyboard, as the dock keyboard attachment confirms. But you also may want a mouse, which would require inheriting the mouse-centric features of Mac OS X and transplanting them into iPhone OS. Likewise, as users become comfortable with touch as an input method, I think we’ll see more and more demand for touch interaction on Mac OS X. The groundwork is already there with support for tablets and touchpads on laptop computers.
“It makes sense to me that at some point in the future, we’ll have a unified operating system (or at least, a unified developer’s SDK), which provides for meaningful user interactions via touch, mouse, or stylus, and which can accommodate the differing UI needs for large-screen monitors, medium screened tablets, and small-screen phones.
“Eventually Apple is going to run out of attractive version numbers for Mac OS X. I can’t see them shipping a Mac OS X 10.10. But I can see them announcing some time before then, that all their devices will now run a new ‘Apple TouchOS 1.0’ or some such.”
Finally, here are the thoughts of one developer who wished to remain anonymous:
“I guess I’m more kool-aid proof but I see very little difference. The iPad just seems like an extension (barely even an evolution, let alone revolution) of the existing iPhone line. With this comes the good (easy to use app delivery system) and the bad (lack of multitasking, strict and sometimes arbitrary control on Apple’s part).
“The ‘iPod Touch XL’ jokes flying around are actually a very apt description of the product. Apple could have done more to take advantage of the tablet form factor but it feels like, to me, they just ‘iPhoned it in’ (sorry about the bad pun). If there’s anything that can be deemed innovative here, it’s the A4 processor which is something most users don’t (and shouldn’t) care about. All of this doesn’t mean it won’t sell well but it’s also likely they have an AppleTV on their hands.”.