Tim Bray on Mobile Software Development

Tim Bray, gloomy on the prospects of mobile software development:

But there’s a little problem and a big problem. The little problem is that I don’t wanna learn Objective-C and I don’t wanna learn a whole new UI framework. I acknowledge that lots of smart people think Objective-C and Cocoa are both wonderful, and quite likely they’re right. I don’t care. I’m lazy; I know enough languages and enough frameworks. You’re free to disapprove, but there are a whole lot of people like me out there.

The big problem is this: I don’t wanna be a sharecropper on Massa Steve’s plantation. I don’t want to write code for a platform where there’s someone else who gets to decide whether I get to play and what I’m allowed to sell, and who can flip my you’re-out-of-business-switch any time it furthers their business goals.

These are both reasonable objections to writing native iPhone software. But there is never going to be a phone with a native API framework that isn’t new. Sure, most do and perhaps will continue to use Java as the language, but I’d say that learning Cocoa Touch (the framework) is a far bigger obstacle than learning Objective-C (the language), especially for someone like Bray, who knows C.

But the big thing Bray seems to be overlooking is mobile web app development. If your primary concerns are like his — (a) not wanting to learn new languages and frameworks, (b) not wanting your software distribution under anyone else’s control, and (c) not wanting to be tied to one proprietary device — web app development solves all three.

Monday, 21 July 2008