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Apple Developers Get Ready For iPhone SDK

As Apple prepares to release its software development kit, developers are already cobbling together iPhone Web-based apps. An interview with a developer sheds some light on what they're up to.

As Apple prepares to release its much-anticipated iPhone software development kit (SDK), expected in February, developers are already hard at work cobbling together Web-based applications for the smartphone without Apple's help.

(click image for larger view)

PopCap Games introduced a Web-based version of a game called Bejeweled for Apple's iPhone.

Click for larger view

While the SDK is sure to launch a wave of hype in the press, the real story about how iPhone apps are being developed is much more nuanced. To get the scoop, we talked with Andrew Reuter, a lead developer at Journyx Inc. The Austin, Texas-based developer of Web-based time- and expense-tracking solutions is getting is getting ready to release its own set of iPhone libraries for Web developers.

InformationWeek: What does the upcoming release of the SDK mean for developers?

Reuter: The SDK is for writing native apps that only run on the iPhone, so it's significant in that sense. But it really doesn't affect developers' ability to write Web apps for the iPhone. They're very capable of doing that today.

I would say that the SDK will spark a chain of events. Once the SDK is released, it will turn more attention to the iPhone. So third-party developers will start writing applications using the SDK, which increases the popularity of the iPhone, which gets it into more hands, which makes it a more desirable target platform, which in turn, causes more Web developers to create apps that support the iPhone.

InformationWeek: Is it possible to develop applications that are designed to emulate the iPhone's native interface without the SDK?

Reuter: We don't need the SDK to emulate the iPhone interface, except in some limited circumstances. It is possible, although currently problematic, to write Web apps that emulate native iPhone apps. There are certain things that you just can't do like drag-and-drop because the iPhone already knows what it wants to do, so you can't override that behavior.

At Journyx, we've been working on creating some libraries that will let you built apps for emulating different parts of the iPhone, like the home screen and the settings page. While a Web developer can build a page that looks like a native iPhone app, they would have to do it from scratch. Journyx and others like us are going to change that where a developer can easily build an iPhone screen by supplying the icons and the titles because the work of building the screen and making it work the right way was already done by somebody else.

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