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Technology Arms Race.

You may have missed it, but it’s iPad launch day today here in the UK (and the rest of the world outside the USA) – and despite being something of an unashamed Apple fan I am not buying one.  At least not yet, and thought I might explain why.

Apple Fan

The statement above about being an Apple fan is in many ways a misnomer in my case.  It would be more accurate to say that I like some of Apple’s current products because they do what I need to do with technology and they do it in a way which appears to sensible to me.  Thats not to say that they are better than an equivalent PC / Microsoft / HTC or Google solution – they just worked best for me at the time I bought them.  They fitted my needs closest then, and largely they still do.

Apple have a large base of “followers” who genuinely believe that Apple can do no wrong.  They also have a large group of detractors who believe they can do no right.  Both groups are entirely entitled to their opinions based on their understanding of Apple – however I am in neither.    I use an iPhone because it works for me, and have a 24″ iMac at home and an AppleTV, but I also have a (ageing) Dell Latitude laptop which I use every day to earn my living; and I run Windows XP & Windows 7 in VMWare Fusion on my Mac.  Its about the right tools for the right job for me…

The iPad

Apple iPad
Apple iPad

A friend of mine bought an iPad this morning, and I have used it briefly.  It truly is a very impressive piece of technology; and indeed when it was announced even I thought of a number of good uses for it.  The problem is, that at the moment I just can’t see where it will fit in with what I do and what I need.  Setting aside the approx £500 price tag!  Yep, it’d be nice to have it to browse the internet and use Facebook & Twitter from the sofa – but I have a laptop which can do that and it does much more too!

For now, I intend to keep the £500 and put it in a fund to replace the ageing Dell (it actually belongs to the company I contract to, but I can’t see them replacing it anytime soon) and at the moment I am erring toward a MacBook Pro on which I can run Windows in a VM if need be.  Call it the Swiss Army Knife of computing!

Arms Race

My larger point though, and the main reason for this blog post is that there will be a whole pile of people today and over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend who will go out and buy an iPad because its the latest and greatest offering from Apple, or because their friend / neighbour / colleague has one. In my opinion, and I’m open to suggestion, I would suggest this is the wrong reason to get any piece of new technology, and will result in disappointment and probably buyers remorse.  If you don’t know what you want from a piece of technology, or don’t have a need for it, or it doesn’t solve a problem you have – then how can you measure how good it is or how satisfied you are with it?   You’re just engaging in a technology arms race!!

iPhone Development in Visual Studio?

Thanks to @StuartDavies on twitter for posting a link to a MacRumours article which suggests that Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, will appear as part of Steve Jobs’ keynote address to the Apple World Wide Developers Conference on June 7th.

iPhone 4 ?
iPhone 4 ?

The WWDC is usually used by Apple for major announcements of new products and features – and it seems this year will be no exception.  Its widely rumoured, following a series of high profile leaks /gaffes, that the new iPhone 4 will be formally announced at WWDC.

Leaks & Secrecy.

Normally Apple keep the exact contents of the WWDC keynote address (usually from Mr Jobs himself) veiled in secrecy, something they have become famed for.  With what is widely believed to be the iPhone 4 having been splashed all over the web, and the new features of iPhone OS4 publicly stated and a Beta available to developers – its been suggested that this years WWDC might be something of a let down with no real new products to announce.

Could this be it?

The rumoured announcement that Ballmer might appear at WWDC would certainly give the event back its “surprise” value, but I personally think even his appearance is very unlikely – let alone Apple announcing that iPhone Development is going to be permitted from Visual Studio.  The arguments forwarded against this on the web are largely that Apple and Microsoft have historically been very competitive.  While this holds some merit I believe Apple’s loyalty is very quickly changed… just look at how Apple and Adobe & Apple and Google have fallen out of love of late having previously been bed fellows.  Apple could just as easily decide Microsoft could now be a friend; so I don’t think previous grudges would prevent this.

Technology / Licencing.

I think the bigger reason it won’t work is that the .NET framework and the Cocoa classes are fundamentally different.  It would need changes to both to present developers with a usable development environment; and Microsoft have only just released VS2010.   There is a product called MonoTouch, from Novell (remember them?), which allows development in C# and using some of the .NET assemblies on the Mac and cross compile this into applications which work on the iPhone / iPad.

Historically apps made with Mono have been approved and allowed to be distributed on the App Store; but the latest licensing agreement from Apple expressly prohibits the use of non ObjectiveC and non documented API’s.  In my opinion this makes MonoTouch, and also most likely VS2010 unusable in compliance with the agreement.  That said, Apple have been very selective in the past about how they choose to enforce agreements; and it could be argued this is a clause to further their ongoing spat with Adobe over Flash.

Distribution.

Another big headache which would need to be overcome before VS2010 could be used to develop apps for iPhone OS is that of distribution.  Microsoft would need to write code to allow for the packing of applications in a different way so they could be distributed via the App Store.  Perhaps this could be done with a Visual Studio add in…

The Big Problem.

Develop For Both?
Develop For Both?

Microsoft have been spending vast amounts of time, money and effort of late coming up with Windows Mobile 7, and the requiste development tool kits.  Have they really had time to also develop the tools needed to code for iPhone OS too?  I doubt it.

At the same time Apple have been spending vast amounts of time, money and effort developing iPhone 4 and iPhone OS4.  They won’t have had time to develop plugins for Visual Studio 2010 to allow iPhone development either.  Oh, and the two products directly compete – where would the advantage be for either party?

All that said, I am prepared to eat my hat on June 7th if need be.

Interesting Links for May 17th.

These are my interesting links for May 17th:

Interesting Links for April 27th.

These are my interesting links for April 27th:

Interesting Links for April 6th.

These are my interesting links for April 6th:

  • Two arrested at Liverpool over corpse check-in incident – Two people were arrested at Liverpool airport after trying to check in a corpse. Very very odd incident. I wonder why it is Greater Manchester Police who are responsible for LPL and not Merseyside though? Or is this a typo by Flight?
  • Pressure mounts on Digital Economy Bill – Telegraph – As part of the process of dissolving parliament in the UK in the run up to the forthcoming general election the government will pass several laws earlier than usual in a process called "the wash up." The Digital Economy bill is going to be one of them – but its such a critical bill for our online economy & copyright holders I think it warrants the usual level of scrutiny.
  • iPad CPU yields up (some) secrets to x-ray scan – Interesting x-ray scans of Apples A4 processor which is used in the iPad.