Category Archives: iPhone

Apple and Open Source: Raising the Bar

Apple and Open Source: Raising the Bar

Apple and Open Source: Raising the Bar

Two excellent articles published recently on Apple’s quest to improve user experience in its mobile products such as the iPhone and what Open Source can learn from it.

1. Making Open-Source Software Free and Fabulous, by Jim Zemlin, Linux Foundation, BusinessWeek

This article aptly reiterates the pressing need to focus on further improving the Linux and Open Source application user experience.

“We’re moving to a tech world with Apple on one side and virtually everyone else on the other. Linux needs to more effectively compete with Steve Jobs and the magic of Apple. It’s important that open-source products add more value for users than simply being free. Open-source software also needs to be fabulous….

…Providing a good user experience isn’t paramount under the white lights of the data center. In consumer electronics, it’s a different story. Mobile Linux vendors must increase their technical investments by working on key open-source projects to make every component used in Linux devices benefit the user experience. That includes making devices boot up faster, connect better, and display graphics more smoothly. In the server market, IBM made the investments to improve Linux for information technology workers a decade ago. The mobile industry uniting behind Linux should do the same.”

2. Why Open Source developers should thank Apple (and why Apple should thank open source) by Dj Walker-Morgan, The H Open

This article does a good job of highlighting areas where Apple has helped Open Source by raising the bar for usability.

“Apple has also set a high competitive bar for open source, and proprietary developers to exceed. For too long, the competition for open source was defined by Microsoft’s offerings…

…although Apple has made design, policy and commercial decisions that people in the free and open source software community vigorously object to, they have provided a number of things too: a real competitive bar to replace the complacent Microsoft competition and a disruption to the mobile phone market which has indirectly led to Linux based phones moving from oddities to center stage. It is said that a rising tide raises all ships, and Apple has, in the last ten years created competition that is making all the players in the business rise to the challenge of competing. Open source and free software are rising to that competitive challenge and if that means users of free software and open source software get as good an experience using it as Apple’s well polished offerings, isn’t that something to be thankful for?”

iPhone 4: A game changer. Again.

WWDC 2010

WWDC 2010

Apple’s annual developer conference WWDC started today in San Francisco with the “official” unveiling of the latest iPhone 4 and iOS 4 by Steve Jobs.

In keeping with Apple’s mantra of innovation and usability, iPhone 4, is loaded with smartphone technology firsts. Much awaited features include a front-facing camera together with a rear-facing 5 megapixel camera, 5x digital zoom, HD movie capability, LED flash, 3-axis gyro, compass, high-res retina display, noise cancellation and a larger battery for longer battery life. All these features have added fuel to the ongoing competition between leading smart phone vendors like Apple and Google. But it’s clear that Apple has raised the bar for innovation and usability on the mobile platform yet again.

Apps on the new iPhone which I am excited about include:

1. iBooks: This app which was initially released with the iPad and will now allow reading PDFs and the same copy of any book across multiple Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iTouch).

2. iMovie: For amateur movie makers, we’ll now be able to create, edit and share videos right from the device.

3. FaceTime: Video chat is finally here with FaceTime. Today this app works on wi-fi only. Of course, you need another friend with a iPhone 4 to vchat with. I hope that Mr. Jobs is serious about his proposal to make FaceTime truly an open international standard.

Despite the game changing potential of the new iPhone, the demands of smart apps on this device may be hard to satisfy with the new limited data plans that come with it. Hopefully, as usage of data-intensive apps (e.g VoIP, Maps, Movies, Video) on smart phones goes up, US network carriers will be encouraged to provide more generous plans.

One Small Blip on the Stock Index, One Giant Step for Apple

Apple overtakes Microsoft

Apple overtakes Microsoft (Image credit:

History was made today as Apple overtook Microsoft ($226.3 billion) in market value and became the world’s most valued technology company at $227.1 billion dollars.

iPhones, iPads and iPods have definitely revitalized Apple’s innovative streak. It will be interesting to see how the company maintains its success in the consumer device space as competition from Google, Microsoft, HP and other vendors heats up. And open source is in the middle of it all, as it becomes a favorite tool-chest to surpass the market leader. Android, Chrome, HTML5, CSS3… the list grows as tools of disruption are readied. It’s going to be exciting times ahead especially at WWDC in San Francisco coming up on June 7-11.

The Open Web?

Suburbanizing the Web?

Suburbanizing the Web?

An excellent article in NYT on “The Death of the Open Web“, drawing parallels to the phenomenon of suburbanization in the US.

“…In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.

The parallels between what happened to cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York in the 20th century and what’s happening on the Internet since the introduction of the App Store are striking. Like the great modern American cities, the Web was founded on equal parts opportunism and idealism. Over the years, nerds, students, creeps, outlaws, rebels, moms, fans, church mice, good-time Charlies, middle managers, senior citizens, starlets, presidents and corporate predators all made their home on the Web. In spite of a growing consensus about the dangers of Web vertigo and the importance of curation, there were surprisingly few “walled gardens” online — like the one Facebook purports to (but does not really) represent…”

At IPDC3 with Dom Sagolla

“Building Teams, Polishing Ideas, Creating Truly Compelling Demos”

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

Dom Sagolla has been a key mover of the iPhoneDevCamp movement since day one. It’s been impressive to have Dom’s energy, enthusiasm and ideas take the iPhoneDevCamp to next level. Throughout the DevCamp, Dom was hard at work, helping folks as well as making progress on his upcoming book. Here are Dom’s responses to some questions I had for him at the camp this year.

  1. The iPhoneDevCamp model offers a winning formula for community collaboration events. It is likely that other technology communities may be able to use this model. What would be your advice to them?

    It’s already begun with things like AndroidDevCamp, PreDevCamp, and now “WinMoDevCamp“.

    My advice is always this: Make the event all about the participants. When you focus on building teams, polishing ideas, and creating truly compelling demonstrations, you are following the model of BarCamp.

  2. A 10 year old developer won applause as the youngest participant at the DevCamp this year. How do you see the camp inspiring kids in school and in general?

    10-year-old Annika has my favorite story this year. Having been dragged along to last year’s event, she made the best of it by reviewing the apps of other participants. This year, she’s created @KidGameReviews and started developing her own games! Annika shows us just how easy it is to get started with iPhone Development. She’s still learning but the growth I’ve witnessed over the past year, in her and in the community, is inspiring.

    iPhone is a lens, through which the problems of computer science may be examined. I hope kids of all ages get a chance to play with Apple’s superb example code just to see what’s possible in a few days’ time.

    Every year we sponsor a few student participants at iPhoneDevCamp, and we will certainly continue that tradition. Perhaps we’ll add to this a new category of “Youngest iPhone Developer”.

  3. Some apps such as Avatar Wall, winner in Coolest iPhone App category, used Twitter to demonstrate their ideas. What do you think is the impact of social networking services such as Twitter on the type of apps being developed?

    Twitter is becoming a communication utility, like other service providers online and in our homes. Seeing the Twitter API in use at iPhoneDevCamp is another sign that social networking is now a fixture in our lives.

    iPhone was launched just when Twitter began to gain prominence two years ago. There has been a complimentary arc of growth for both Apple and Twitter since then, and Twitter was profiled as an “Apple Business“.

    I see the intersection of iPhone and Twitter as a kind of cultural nexus. The best of breed Twitter apps are on the iPhone / Mac platform, and the most virulent iPhone apps integrate well with Twitter and other social media. The two platforms combined create a vortex of attention and zeal that is driving innovation on both ends.

  4. How does a community event like the iPhoneDevCamp that has grown in popularity every year fit into the iPhone developers ecosystem? How does it complement official (e.g. by Apple) and unofficial (e.g. barcamps) activities?

    I like to think of iPhoneDevCamp as a “sister event” to WWDC. Folks go to learn new technologies and talk with Apple engineers at WWDC. Inevitably they are inspired and want to test their knowledge, so we have created iPhoneDevCamp where they can form teams and build things.

    The relationship is complimentary: We do our best to schedule around Apple’s events, and stay in contact with them at an informal level.

    In the BarCamp tradition, we want to be a model for other Open Source communities to band together, find sponsorship, and field events of their own. I think the Satellites program launched for last year’s iPhoneDevCamp, with double the participation this year, pretty clearly shows our commitment to the BarCamp way.

  5. Your writing project “140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form” sounds exciting. Is there going to be a chapter about using Twitter at the iPhoneDevCamp? You mentioned you’d be gathering some source material for the book at the DevCamp. Did you notice anything interesting about how Twitter was being used by the participants (and organizers)? Tell us more.

    140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form

    140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form (flickr:Sagolla)

    I do talk about iPhoneDevCamp in “140 Characters”, yes! Our use of #ipdc3 as a tag this year, as well as a few choice quotes from our performer @BT are profiled:

    iPhoneDevCamp itself formed out of the Twitter community. @Ravenme wrote to @ChrisMessina who posted an inquiry for space, which I picked up because I’d just started following Chris in mid-2007. I replied in public to Chris, he followed me back and the rest is a history of 100% year-on-year growth.

    Twitter accelerates small societies.

    We did an experiment this year, where we made our Satellite broadcast available via iPhone and iPod touch for the first time. Tweeting that link resulted in about 1000 viewers around the world. That’s how I measure reach: How many people are tuned into your message RIGHT NOW?

    I measure impact with action: in the last days of Registration for the camp, we sold out three (3) times. Each time capacity was lifted, we tweeted the Registration link and we were sold out again within hours.

    The Twitter community is voracious for learning and real-life connection. Tapping into that has been critical to the success of iPhoneDevCamp and the iPhone Developer community abroad.

  6. What can we expect at DevCamp 4? Any surprises coming up?

    Next year: iPhone Jam Band! :-D

    Seriously we haven’t talked about plans for next Summer yet. Right now is the time to follow up with all the Satellite communities and see how we can enable more events elsewhere during the year.

    We would be thrilled to work with Yahoo! and all of our sponsors again next year, which we know will be yet again bigger.

Dom Sagolla

Dom Sagolla (flickr:Sagolla)

Dom Sagolla helped create Twitter with Jack Dorsey in 2006 then co-founded iPhoneDevCamp with Raven Zachary in 2007 (just a week after the launch of the original iPhone). After helping Raven and the team create the Obama ’08 iPhone App in 2008, Dom started his own company DollarApp in San Francisco, resulting in two Staff Favorites: Big Words and Math Cards. @Dom’s book “140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form” is the subject of his next iPhone invention, shipping this Fall.

A Conversation with Christopher Allen

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

I have had the pleasure of seeing Christopher Allen in action at the iPhoneDevCamp since its inception in 2007. Chris has been a superb mentor and open source guru for the iPhoneDevCamp hackathon every year. I’ve felt the energy that this DevCamp hackathon has generated from everyone sharing the experience of building applications together. Here are some questions I asked him after this DevCamp’s phenomenal success. Hope you’ll enjoy reading his responses!

IPDC3 Team

IPDC3 Team

  1. What were your expectations from the iPhoneDevCamp this year? Did the camp meet your expectations?

    Last year’s hackathon was a great success, in spite of the SDK being so new we were able to demonstrate over 40 iPhone applications. This year we had 54 apps demonstrated, many of which showed the results of a year’s worth of experience in developing for the SDK. The other big problem last year was the NDA, which prevented sharing — this year I was quite pleased with the number of open source entries, which allows people to learn from others and/or improve. Finally, I really liked the number of designers and non-programmers who participated on teams last year, and I was a little worried that they would be shut out given the popularity of iPhone — yet we continued this year to have a number of teams led by designers and teams made up of programmers new to the iPhone.

  2. Do you see the DevCamp growing, getting smaller, or is it just right?

    I write about group size in my blog at, so I am certain that iPhoneDevCamp will lose something if it grows too big. One thing that could be lost is the ‘amateur’ component that is so valuable — especially given the origin of the word ‘amateur’ is ‘to love’ the lack of amateurs could lead a certain lack of passion. Amateurs also are less likely to fall into traps of “it can’t be done” or “it can’t be profitable” and just make something new happen because they don’t know their limits.

  3. Which applications did you find most intriguing and innovative from the hackathon?

    Quite a few, but I think the Augmented Reality library might see the most use by other application developers. I was also inspired by the father teaching his daughter to make the Bubblo application.

  4. Collaboration, community and coding are core themes of the iPhoneDevCamp hackathon. Can you tell us about a few examples you saw at the DevCamp that demonstrated these themes.

    More completely, the list is Contribution, Sharing, Openness, and a “Can Do” attitude. I started giving out tickets Friday evening and Saturday morning when I saw people coding or showing others their code during “outside hours” when other stuff was going on. I gave tickets out when someone would answer a call for help on code, or an icon, etc. I would ask each team what person outside their team helped them most, and then go find that person to give them a ticket. Finally, I gave few tickets out when I spotted obvious signs of enthusiasm and happiness.

  5. With the iPhone being a tightly controlled platform by Apple, how do you see open source apps fitting in?

    There were a few others at the conference (in particular some of the staff from Yahoo) who have had experience with other Hackathons which were more open source oriented, and they definitely felt a different vibe due to the commercialism of the iPhone. In my own experience with MacHack and the prior iPhoneDevCamp, open source on the iPhone is much more about teaching and learning rather then sharing and contributing to the commons.

  6. What do you see will be the impact of new technologies like HTML5 on the iPhone?

    Clearly 5 years from now you can probably do 90% of the apps today for the iPhone using open technologies like HTML5. In fact, that is the basic premise of the Palm Pre. However, we are not quite there yet, and Microsoft will continue to stall and slow the process of open technologies and we will just have to route around them.

Photo Credit: Christopher Allen

Photo Credit: Christopher Allen

In his own words, Christopher Allen “is an long-time entrepreneur, visionary, and technologist, whose many ventures center on tools and facilitation of online communities. He helped invent SSL and is co-author of the IETF TLS internet-draft, is an investor and advisor to a number of social software and online game companies, and blogs at He is co-author of “iPhone in Action: Introduction to Web and SDK Development”, is the founder of the, the largest iPhone web developer support community, is maintainer of iUI at a popular iPhone Javascript library, and is keynote speaker and co-founder of where he moderates the popular Hackathon Contest.”

iPhoneDevCamp 3 ends with a roar: 54 apps showcased!

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

What a weekend at iPhoneDevCamp 3! Community and friends coming together to collaborate, hack code, enjoy great food and soak in the picture perfect weather at Yahoo’s beautiful campus – what else could an open source geek ask for? Here is the group photo of everyone who participated this year.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Dev Camp this year- there were some excellent talks on Saturday. There was plenty of time for hacking and the results of the hackathon were paraded out on Sunday afternoon. Open source and web applications hacked together over the weekend were showcased. Other apps included alpha versions of future App Store products. More than 60 apps were entered for the hackathon and 54 of these were were showcased in the demo session. Chris Allen, guru and mentor for the hackathon along with other judges watched each demo with great attention and afterwards announced the winners in each app category. The winners are listed here.

My congratulations again to Raven Zachary, Christopher Allen and Dom Sagolla – the key movers for making this Dev Camp happen. And thanks to Yahoo! for providing a fantastic venue for everyone to gather and build some innovative web and native iPhone apps. Looking forward to iPhoneDevCamp 4!

iPhoneDevCamp 3 gets off to a running start

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

The third iPhoneDevCamp kicked off Friday evening at Yahoo!’s scenic campus with an enthusiastic audience and an excellent talk by Chi Hua-Chien’s session on iFund, Kleiner Perkins’ venture fund for iPhone applications. Today started with a great  presentation by Andrew Stone on ‘How the NeXT Computer Became the iPhone’. There are at least 400 people now, forming groups to develop their apps. Some are  listening to BT, the current speaker who is a musician and DJ who is presenting his iPhone app Sonifi that allows users to remix music. Sonifi also has in-built stutter gestures using the iPhone accelerometer. You can stretch these stutters to extend sections of music which makes it sound metallic. Interesting stuff! After this session, a pizza lunch and four parallel sessions of talks on web and native development tools and techniques are coming up. Time to get back to work on our app for the hackathon!

iPhoneDevCamp 3 in Silicon Valley this weekend

iPhoneDevCamp 2009

iPhoneDevCamp 2009

The third iPhoneDevCamp begins this weekend July 31 to August 2 at Yahoo!’s campus in Sunnyvale. The organizers of iPhoneDevCamp – Raven Zachary, Dom Sagolla, and Chris Allen are hard at work on finalizing the next edition of a star studded event. Developers and companies will come together to showcase and develop applications for iPhone and iPod touch using both the native SDK and web technologies while having great fun at the same time :-)

What’s on the agenda? Lots of cool stuff. Here’s the link. The event starts on Friday evening with a mixer and concert. Saturday and Sunday are hackathon days when you roll-up-your-sleeves, form your team, brainstorm and write your code. As in previous years, the deadline for project submissions is Sunday 2pm. Each team shows off their project app from 2-5 pm. And then come the awards, applause and appreciation from the DevCamp community, which makes it worth every minute you spent at the camp. So, if you’re in the Bay Area this weekend, drop by the Yahoo! campus and join the party. Remember the event is not free this year – registration is $50 and you can register at the iPhoneDevCamp website.

See you at the DevCamp!

44 apps over a weekend at SF iPhoneDevCamp2

iPhoneDevCamp2Every year, the hack-a-thon at iPhoneDevCamp is a superb example of collaboration, team effort and hacking code. Chris Allen has been a fantastic mentor for many participants hacking code at the DevCamp and this camp was no exception. This time around, a couple of days of huddling and coding produced some amazing results – 44 iPhone applications based on big ideas and small ideas from open source dev tools to games and social apps. The hack-a-thon brought together teams of people who had never met each other before the conference started. Two days of intense collaboration, communication and coding (sounds like open source doesn’t it!) culminated in demos of these applications that were judged by a panel of experts for categories of best 90 minute app, best open source app, coolest app, most useful app, best developer tool, most educational app, best social app, best game, best web app. Our team of five worked on developing a multiplayer version of “Rock, Scissors, Paper” and appropriately named it RSPRoyale. Our team gave a good demo. We plan to work further on the app and hopefully make it available through the iTunes AppStore. The unconference happening simultaneously had a lot of interesting talks as well. By the evening, once the demos were conducted, the best apps in each contest category were announced and awarded some cool prizes – an iPhone 3G, a 17-inch MacBook Pro, JBL speakers, VMWare Fusion, Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, Apple Store gift certificates. A group photo of the DevCamp community with the satellite groups visible online on the background screens was one of the highlights of the whole event. I congratulate the organizers (Raven, Dom, Chris, Blake) who put this camp together and the community. It was a great experience of team building, some serious coding and lots of fun.