Possibilities for developing Rich Internet Applications for the iPhone

Once everyone started getting to hold the iPhone, it wasn't quite as cool as it was when they were looking at it on the big screen at the keynote. There are a lot of downsides, no 3rd party applications, bad keyboard, ect. But it does seem like the iPhone has a Widget platform similar to that on OS X which could provide some enterprising RIA developers a way to reach the iPhone.
Written by Ryan Stewart, Contributor
After yesterday's love fest with the Apple iPhone I wanted to wait until some people had actually gotten their hands on the device and we knew a bit more about it before chiming in. Unfortunately it seems like the irrational exuberance of yesterday has carried over in full force. For instance, check out this review from that paragon of journalism, the New York Times. The first thing David mentions:
It feels amazing in your hand. Not like an iPod, not like a Treo — but something new. It’s so thin, and the rounded stainless-steel edges are so smooth, you can excuse its larger-than-Treo façade. When you’re on a call, it’s so cool how the screen turns off to save power, thanks to its proximity sensor.

Then all the way down at the fourth item:

Typing is difficult. The letter keys are just pictures on the glass screen, so of course there’s no tactile feedback.

Wow, thanks David. I can't wait to spend $600 on a phone that I can't type on but feels amazing in my hands. Seriously, I think everyone needs to simma down now on this thing.

The news that was most disappointing to me are the reports coming out that say it is a fairly bland mobile implementation of OSX and that extensibility is going to be difficult. It seems like Apple is planning to make development of third party applications for the phone a tough road to hoe. They've gone a long way towards perfecting the web browsing experience, and they're using Safari, so I wonder if that will help Ajax applications. Will those Ajax applications be able to run on the iPhone version of Safari?

The one thing that should pique a lot of interest are the widgets. According to Gizmodo, the widgets running on the phone are exactly the same as the OSX dashboard widgets. My hope is that means developers can build things for the iPhone in widget format. Widgets use very web-centric technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript as well as the ability to dive into some of the core parts of OS X. On the developer page at Apple, it mentions that Internet plug-ins are a part of the Widget development arena:

Since Widgets are built using Web Kit, any Internet plug-in can be run from within the Widget. For example, a Widget could display a QuickTime-based movie using the QuickTime Internet plug-in. As well, a complex Shockwave-based application could be reused in the scope of a Widget.

Who knows what will happen with Shockwave/Flash but the idea of QuckTime working can't be too farfetched. And because OS X is running on the phone, as a JulesLt mentioned on my Digital Backcountry blog, it looks like developers might be able to tap into Core Animation, a technology I've been watching for signs of a Rich Internet Application push from Apple.

In the end, I think a lot of the excitement about the iPhone is overblown. Is it going to sync with Exchange Server? Can I open Word Documents on it? Can I type a message if/when I need to? But it could be one of the best multimedia devices out there, and it comes with a rabid fan base. If Apple allows us to build widgets that take advantage of core OS X technology and then can be used on both the Mac and the iPhone, that creates an interesting platform for developers. This could be the first step to build an RIA platform.

Editorial standards