Apple’s Special iPhone Press Event…My Liveblog

Occasionally, Apple throws a special media event to announce Cool New Things. Unfortunately, they generally don’t hold them in the Boston area and in general, I can’t spend the $500-$1000 to head out to Cupertino for them unless I can manufacture another excuse or two to be in the area.

So I’ll be liveblogging the event just like the rest of my brothers and sisters in the press corps. Only I’ll be doing it from here in my living room, with a freshly-made lunch on a TV tray (turkey and swiss on wheat, with a handful of Doritos and a soda) and last night’s TV shows on the PVR. I’ll be following Macworld’s reliably-excellent liveblog, posted by my Close Personal Friend Jason Snell.

I stress that this is the reason why you bought a copy of the Web. Where would you have been twenty years ago, unable to read about how I was reacting to reading the news online via someone else’s liveblog?

Actually, twenty years ago there wouldn’t have been a liveblog for me to post from.

Nor an iPhone for this event to have been about.

My head hurts.

Liveblog starts. Hit command-R on the Macworld page. Jason Snell identifies the file-in song as “27 Jennifers.” Cool song. Go to iTunes store.

Try to buy “27 Jennifers” but this is a loaner MacBook Air and I’ve already authorized my 5 computers for iTunes purchases.

Oh, right, the event. Refresh page. Apparently this “Steve Jobs” (of the Cupertino Steve Jobses) is heading this thing.

Whoops, no he isn’t: he hands it off to Phil Schiller. Who always makes me think of the guy who made those awesome short films for the original seasons of “Saturday Night Live.”

He leads off by talking enterprise. Check off the first item on the expected announcements.

Tab over to Google Reader. 5 new articles in ModBlog. Do I dare? Hell yeah. Fingers crossed…

…the score: one “holy CATS is that an extreme mod (extensive facial tattoos + piercings + horn implants” one “okay, kind of an interesting tat” (cute cartoon of a giraffe and an elephant on someone’s chesticological ladyparts), one flat-out “Ewwwww…” (gross, in-your-face pornographic cartoon on someone’s calf), one fairly interesting tribal backpiece (though as always, those tribal designs make me wonder if in the future, people will point to that and say “2004, right?”).

Back to the event…

Cool, Apple’s giving the enterprise IT managers nearly everything they’ve asked for. Microsoft Exchange compatability…they’re licensing MS ActiveSync, push services for calendar, contacts, etc., support for more VPNs, tools that allow remote admin of phones….meaning, the ability to set up hundreds of phones at once, and wipe phones remotely if they get lost or stolen.

Let’s see how my man in the office Iditarod pool is doing…

Awesome! Martin Buser has passed Ed Iten and Hugh Neff and is now at the Cripple checkpoint in 4th place. Still with 15 dogs, nearly his full original team. This means he can start choosing his team for the “real” race to come. Wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped two dogs before taking off for Ruby.

From Ophir we swing our Camera of Truth back to Cupertino, where the local residents would bravely throw their bodies in front of those 15 dogs to prevent them from being exploited thusly. (And then the dogs would immediately pounce and eat them).

Demo of Exchange contact syncing (if Bob adds a new contact to his iPhone at the trade show hospitality suite, it immediately appears in Alan’s iPhone at the strip club champagne room five blocks away from the convention center). Demo of push email (you don’t have to “check” email…there’s just a wide-open pipe from the company mailserver to your iPhone).

What’s going on at Twitter? Tab.

….nothing much. Hokay.

Second of two cans of Diet Pepsi With Cherry is poured into an insulated travel mug. Hmm, ice has melted. Back into kitchen.

Did I mention how awesome it is to own an icepick? I used to have to toss the bag of ice in the air and let it smash to the floor to break it into cubes. Having the right bar tool for the job makes me feel, y’know, sophisticated and junk. I bet Hef owned an ice pick back in the golden days.

I unmute “Dirty Jobs” on the PVR. It’s the one where he’s working at a tannery. Good god, I think there are visible, cartoon-like stink lines radiating off of the screen.

Back to Cupertino. The thrilling — seriously, the aisles at Town Hall are littered with convulsing bodies of industry analysts, like at a revival meeting with a good cover charge — demo of enterprise push email and contacts is over with and now Scott Forstall is talking SDK.

…After showing off web apps.

No, that’s good. I’ve said before that Apple has made a huge hit with their custom web hooks in iPhone Safari. There’s now actually three versions of the Web: the “real” web, the stripped-down no-fun version that exists for mobile browsers…and a version that only appears to people visiting with an iPhone. What an achievement.

On to the actual SDK (Mike Rowe is now shoveling huge, wobbly wads of deer flesh, fat, and hair from a rotating tanning drum). Sounds like a really cool talk; they’re finally saying “Here’s what we meant in January 2007 when we said ‘the iPhone runs OS X, with additions and deletions that make it relevant for a touch-based handheld phone instead of a keyboard-and-mouse computer.”

There’s a real sense of “pulling the tarp off of something you’ve been using for months” aspect to this. Truly, it is OS X, with all the familiar frameworks.

I’m seeing a lot of familiar terms and tech here. As a geek with some basic Cocoa programming skills — not “mad” by any means, but perhaps I could claim to have “irked skilz” — this is actually getting me keen to write iPhone software.

(Which of course is the whole point of this presentation.)

Now explaining “Cocoa Touch.”

The skins have been cleaned and tanned. Now Mike has taken them to the second floor, where they must be scraped and made supple once again.

Is there a name for those three or four sad little broken Dorito corners that are left over on the napkin, from the original handful you plated from the bag? Part of me says “they’re still tasty” and eats them. Part of me wonders if this isn’t like an alcoholic sucking on the ice cubes left over from a glass of scotch.

Onward to a demo of XCode. Oh, awesome: developing iPhone apps uses Interface Builder just like any other apps. I wonder if it works with AppleScript Studio?

(I am drooling at the thought of being able to simply port all of my script-based XCode apps onto the iPhone. Hell, man, I could have six useful things on my iPhone a day after I get the SDK.)

Sounds like a very slick development system. You get an iPhone simulator for “live fire” exercises. When it’s done, you build the app as usual, select an option, and bango, it lands on the iPhone you’ve got tethered to the build machine.

Cool demos of sample apps, demonstrating full access to the touchscreen and the onboard accelerometers (demo app that “distorts” a photo by letting you mush things around with your finger, like mashing up a Polaroid; shake the iPhone like an Etch-A-Sketch and it restores the original photo.

Equally neat is the fact that this is just OpenGL. So no need to learn anything new…just as in the Mac, games and graphic apps written to use that library are a (relatively) straightforward port.

Oh, good Lord: Mike is using a scraping machine that looks like it’s designed to grab your wrist, skin all the skin and muscle from your arm, and then rip the skeletonized limb from your shoulder. Wisely, Mike is having little success with operating it.

Put th PVr back on pause, back to the liveblog.

Oh, man: Apple is getting serious about the iPhone as a gaming platform. This takes me a bit by surprise as (frankly) so long as Macs and iPods can run both Solitaire and a Tetris clone, they seem to think that this side of the software business is more than covered.

Nice point they’re making: they invited a bunch of developers (under double-secret-probation NDA) to come to Cupertino and see what they could build in two weeks. First to demo: Electronic Arts, demoing some work on porting Spore to the iPhone.

(Sounds like a good demo, but…Spore? IMHO this is the most “You can’t have your dessert until you’ve eaten all of your vegetables” game that’s selling well enough to be well-known. Give me stuff to blow up, fer crissakes, and don’t make me think about Darwin!)

I feel sorry for the next guy to demo: showing off a vertical-market app for (I gather) organizing sales leads. This is like that day in school when the kids’ parents come to talk about their careers, and the nice Mom with a consultancy firm specializing in process control in light-industrial manufacturing has to follow the firefighter.

AOL is up next, showing off AIM for the iPhone. Good. And I’m absolutely confident that now, all of the bloggers and messageboard posters who bitchily insisted that Apple would never support chat on the iPhone because they didn’t want to give users a free alternative to AT&T’s text messaging are dislocating their wrists in their rush to post their apologies.

“I have besmirched not just Apple, but my own reputation as a technology observer” they will post. “If I do not retract these wild and unfounded claims, I cannot live with honor.”

I am so totally sure that this is what will happen. I imagine that you won’t be able to get your email for at least another twenty minutes, because of everyone posting at the same time.

Next is Epocrates. My folks have been having a batch of medical experiences of late, and so I’ve been spending a certain amount of time explaining to doctors and nurses the situation on iPhone software development. “If it doesn’t run Epocrates, I can’t use it,” they moan. Many just carry two phones and use their Treo almost exclusively for the doctor stuff.

Note how carefully this event is being orchestrated. Apple has carefully lined up a series of white porcelain plates at the far and of a shooting gallery. Each one is labeled with a known percentage of the marketplace that “can’t” buy an iPhone for specific technical reasons. Annnd…plink! plink! plink!…they’re knocking them all down.

Final demo goes to Sega, bringing monkey-based gaming to the iPhone.

Monkeys are like bacon. They improve just about anything.

Interesting that all the game companies are keen on using the iPhone’s acceleromoter. Call this the “Wii Effect.” I wonder if this will translate to truly effective game interfaces or if this will be a flavor-of-the-month sort of feature that soon gives way to a more practical static virtual gamepad.

(I predict that the first “iPhone as pedometer” app will arrive about 48 minutes after the SDK goes live).

Mr. Steve Jobs (of the Cupertino Steve Jobses) returns to the stage to talk deployment. Looks like the iPhone firmware will now include a built-in app browser and loader, like the iTunes Store widget. Slick and simple (but I wonder how folks will get a “try before you buy” sort of experience?)

Sounds like a fairly neat deal for small developers. Developer sets the price and there’s a simple 70-30 split between the developer and Apple. No service charges, it costs nothing other than that 30%.

Naturally, if you want to give things away for free, Apple will take 30% of $0. IE, it costs nothing to distribute freeware or open source apps.

But I’ll be interested to know how developers feel about this. This is the only way to deploy iPhone software. You cannot sell an iPhone app without paying a 30% tribute to Caesar. I suppose their happiness will be tied to how good this Apple store is at steering people to their products and converting casual interest into an actual buy.

Mention that some apps won’t be accepted into the Store. Porno, malware, apps that slam bandwidth…sounds reasonable, but this is the overture to a whole new discussion: “What right does Apple have to dictate what apps I can and cannot use on my iPhone?”

I don’t think it’ll be a big argument when it comes to porn. But what happens when an online poker site wants to create an iPhone app? Apple’s already kiboshed one department of the Vice Store…is gambling also an affront to God (meaning: Jobs)?

Hmm.

Surprise, the SDK beta is available today for free (but only to developers) (like me, hee hee hee).

Interesting note: joining the dev program costs $99. I wonder if this means “the iPhone developer program” or “the Apple developer program”?

Either way, a $99 buy-in to become a fully-supported developer isn’t a lot of money. Folks who bought the first Palm Pilot and found that the box contained a developer CD, a small assortment of quality chocolates, and a nice handwritten note reading “Please please oh pretty please write apps that make our hardware more awesome” might arch a Spock-like eyebrow, but again…$99 isn’t an exclusionary buy-in by any means.

(Remember: becoming a Newton developer cost about $800. This meant that you didn’t write apps for the Newton unless you had a business plan of some sort. Or if your company needed the SDK and you were able to cook your own apps with it on the side.)

Final announcement: the iFund. I have no clue what’s this about but I see “fund” and “$100,000,000” and I think “How can I get my hand in the till?”

Event is over and ends with a good, strong comment: the iPhone and iTouch are now real, red-blooded platforms, not just a phone and an iPhone. Remote shared computers > desktops > portable computers > palmtops > touch computers?

Steve dismisses everyone but the press. Red Five, standing by…

…Time for Q&A.

Voice over IP? Yes for WiFi, no for cellular net.

Security? Obviously a big concern, but that’s part of the reason for the $99 fee. They collect lots of information about the developer so that people can be held responsible for Bad Apps.

“SIM unlock software”? Thank you, we’ve all enjoyed a good laugh.

Mmmm…okay, I’m ready to push the button, Frank.

17 thoughts on “Apple’s Special iPhone Press Event…My Liveblog”

  1. Nice job covering the event, Andy! The Dorito hooks and tanning toolkit in the SDK are especially appealing. I’m just confused as to why there would be ice cubes anywhere near a glass of scotch.

  2. I hope Apple puts up a video, including the press Q&A, on their Apple Events Quicktime page. Just so I can see Ryan Block ask about SIM unlocking and get the evil eye from Steve.

    When demo’ing the iTunes App Store (pics on Engadget), the picture on the screen was an iPhone version of Backgammon. I know it makes me a huge nerd, but if the computer opponent is any good that’s actually an iPhone selling point to me.

    Also, Andy, if you don’t buy into the $99 iPhone developer program, you won’t be able to run your own apps on your actual iPhone. The free SDK can only create things to run in the Simulator.

  3. “Monkeys are like bacon. They improve just about anything.”

    I plan to have this tattooed on the backside of my first born child. You are, indeed, the font of all wisdom.

  4. Icepick, nothin’. You need one of these: Swing-A-Way Ice Crusher

    My sister got one for me for my birthday or Christmas one year — she told me that I’d have no idea what in the world I’d be getting, and she was right! Before that, I was putting my ice in a Ziploc bag and having at it with a meat-tenderizing mallet. This is much easier. Crank in one direction for fine-crushed ice, or crank in the other direction for a more coarse crushing. Plus, it’s more “retro-swank bachelor-pad” and less “serial killer-esque” than jabbing an icepick around, I guess.

    The downside with using the icecrusher is that you can’t make “Psycho” noises like you can when jabbing with an icepick. I suppose you *could*, but it doesn’t quite work. Best thing I can think of is to instead take a page from “Strange Brew” and say “Start up, eh?!” like you’re cranking the MGM lion’s tail when turning the handle on the icecrusher.

  5. You may know this by now, but $99 lets you sell/distribute apps (whenever that day arrives). $0.00 lets you use the SDK and play with the OS emulator. You have to pay the fee to load your software even onto your hardware.

  6. RE: “I don’t think it’ll be a big argument when it comes to porn. But what happens when an online poker site wants to create an iPhone app? Apple’s already kiboshed one department of the Vice Store…is gambling also an affront to God (meaning: Jobs)?”

    If that’s the case, onlne gambling sites can just create WebApps to bypass Apple. Of course, they’re subject to both MobileSafari and Network limitations.

  7. Wow take a look at this linkback

    “Apple observer Andy Ihnatko offers a concise summary of today’s Apple event”

    No idea why this made me smile, great coverage, thanks.

  8. Pingback: Gettin’ Grovered
  9. How about lotus notes? I have seen rmors but nothing concrete on if or when Lotus notes will be compatible with the Iphone

  10. Nice coverage Andy! I expect the next step for apple will be allowing indie film producers to distribute their films through a similar model. I make a case for this on my blog and podcast. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter.

  11. “Part of me wonders if this isn’t like an alcoholic sucking on the ice cubes left over from a glass of scotch.”

    dude… you got them out of the bag. you are not an chip-oholic. You’re just not.

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