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Opinion - iDeveloper : Apple's next great thing!
Apple's new Internet strategy has really started me thinking about what could be done via Apple's new iTools and other WebObjects-based technology. And in particular, their new iMovie software and the direction Apple is moving forward with the "desktop video" revolution reminds me once again that Apple -- more than any other company -- has the ability to set the pace and direction in the computer industry. Here's the idea: why not do to "developing software" what Apple has already done for "desktop publishing" and other trends, and what they are now doing for "desktop movies"? Introducing iDeveloper.
After all, if anyone can make the arcane business of writing software applications easy and fun, it's got to be Apple! And just look at what some of the benefits can be:
1. More native Macintosh OS applications! (boy! that sounds great, let me say it again) More native Macintosh OS applications.
2. More chances that someone will develop that "killer app" on the Mac -- probably some newbie to programming who discovers their inner genius for it.
3. A chance to promote the Cocoa development environment.
5. The ability to leverage Apple.com and the new iTools.
iDeveloper: What could it be?
iDeveloper could be Apple's next great software application that ties in to its new Internet strategy tools. As a software application iDeveloper could be a product similar to REALBasic, by Real Software Inc., but go far beyond that. For instance, via a new section in the iTools area, iDeveloper could send code files to a special iDeveloper Server which could analyze the code for bugs, errors and improvements. In addition, the iDeveloper area in the iTools section could provide a place where fellow "iDevelopers" can chat in real time about their software projects (get organized in software categories) and find software partners to collaborate on iDeveloper software projects. Such an area could also allow people to freely post their software for download (via their iTools iDisk volume or HomePage) so that others can beta test it. When the product is ready Apple could provide an easy way to list it in the Macintosh Products Guide.
iDeveloper could come in two versions with possibly a "light" version shipping with every Macintosh or perhaps just the pro Macs. The program would teach the art and science of Macintosh programming "visually", doing to programming what the original Macintosh did to computing in general.
iDeveloper should be a program written from the ground up that essentially takes Apple's new Cocoa development environment and exploits the full power of the "ease-of-use" model to create a visual environment for newbies and amateurs. The program could have hundreds of software routines that can be placed together in a modular way to make up an application. In particular, iDeveloper should foster the development of programs that leverage Apple's key technologies, like QuickTime.
Here are some ideas for targeting iDeveloper's development goals:
1. The creation of OS X utilities and Finder enhancements and Games
2. The creation of business applications - specifically vertical markets
3. The creation of graphic applications/utilities for Quartz technologies
4. The creation of QuickTime applications
5. The creation of applications for FileMaker Pro data
6. The creation of applications for extending AppleWorks 6
7. The creation of applications for the Web and iTools
8. The creation of applications for Palm OS to Mac OS X integration
iDeveloper could be ideal for the creation of applications that leverage both AppleWorks 6 and FileMaker Pro for the general and specific business application market, where Apple is traditionally weak.
Sample program ideas
Idea #1 Business Applications (vertical markets)
My wife is a physical therapist who was looking for an application that allowed her to create custom rehabilitation exercises for her patients. These therapies would be exercise instructions for patients to do between her visits. Essentially the program would print out graphic instructions of each exercise with specific patient directions for doing the exercises. Ideally, it would contain detailed patient information or integrate with such data via an interface to, say, FileMaker Pro. The program would need specific drawing tools, animation tools, and word processing abilities and voice dictation abilities via a Palm OS module. Key Apple technologies exploited: Quartz (PDF), QuickTime (animation), AppleWorks, FileMaker and Palm OS integration.
Idea #2 Finder Utility and Web Applications (iTools)
Another idea, and its a simple one, would be a utility application for Mac OS X that allows for the customization of Apple's new Web services into the OS. For instance, perhaps you will leverage iDisk in new and inventive ways and would love to bring it closer to the desktop experience without accessing it via a Web browser. Perhaps this program would place an iDisk menu in the Finder or add one to a specific application's menu bar, allowing you to do specific things with iDisk automatically within applications. Key Apple technologies: AppleScript, WebObjects, Quartz and possibly QuickTime.
While these are just two such ideas for iDeveloper programs, certainly there are thousands of Mac users out there who each have their own "dream application" ideas floating in their heads. iDeveloper can be Apple's ticket to exploiting that incredible potential. This could be incredible!
How best for Apple to exploit iDeveloper
It's easy. Tap the thousands of Mac users out there who have always wanted to create their own Mac program but felt it would be too difficult. In the grand Apple tradition make iDeveloper incredibly easy to learn.
Structure key software code (API's) in such a way that it promotes the development of applications in key areas where Apple is presently weak, as well as increasing the odds of that "killer app" happening first on the Mac. Make an iDeveloper area on Apple.com -- complete with QuickTime-based iDeveloper School, iDeveloper Forum/Chat and iDeveloper Debugger/Optimizer. In short, create technology that helps get all these great ideas out of people's heads and into real Mac OS X code.
I'll repeat it again. If anybody can make programming easy and fun, it has to be Apple -- and the long term benefits of such a program would amount to so much. Within one year there could be literally hundreds or even thousands of new and exciting applications that bolster Apple's key technologies. Picture this: Macworld Expo SF 2001 and the new iDeveloper Pavilion and instruction theater. I see a very big crowd and long lines, indeed!
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