New iPad means iPhone developers need to think differently

Developers are gearing up for the new possibilities in the iPad, but they may have to move beyond their iPhone roots

Software developers already building applications for Apple's wildly popular iPhone are gearing up for the new Apple tablet device announced today, anticipating new opportunities for their software as well as tweaks they will have to make to their code.

For developers who have been building for iPhone and iPod Touch, the unit represents a new form factor and extended UI for presenting their applications. The tablet's larger screen moves beyond the limitations of the tiny iPhone screen, boosting such applications as electronic book-reading, in-the-field forms applications, and even games.

The new iPad UI supports menus, panes, and windows familiar to developers from their Windows and Mac OS X apps, so it appears that they can adapt their desktop apps' UIs fairly readily to the iPad. A new iPhone SDK that supports the iPad will be available for downlaod today, Apple says.

[ Apple's iPad tablet will be a disruptive device -- and not in a good way -- says InfoWorld columnist Randall C. Kennedy. | See InfoWorld's full report on the new Apple iPad. ]

Developer interest appears heavy. In a survey of 554 of its developers last week, mobile and desktop platform provider Appcelerator found that more than 90 percent were interested in developing at least one Apple tablet application in the coming year.  (Appcelerator will support development of Apple tablet applications.)

But with that interest comes a key question: Can developers create apps that work for both the iPhone and the iPad, or must they fork their apps or even create fully separate ones?

For a variety of reasons, many developers expect to see iPad-specific applications come to market that aren't intended for iPhone use.

The iPad form factor opens possibilities that don't make sense on an iPhone A big reason is the tablet's larger display enables display of more information, which helps developers such as Bill Vlohos, president of InfoWallet, which makes an information organizer for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems. But such a UI is "going to be difficult to do on the small screen of a phone," he notes (Vlohos plans on porting the app to the iPhone nonetheless).

The large display and the additional UI controls in the iPad also open the door for apps that didn't make sense either on a smartphone like the iPhone or on a traditional tablet PC running Windows and using a pen interface. For example, "I think there will be a huge amount of adoption in medical [applications, with] the ability for doctor or a nurse to bring X-rays and other kinds of diagnostics and stuff to the bedside," says Christopher Allen, co-founder of the iPhoneWebDev developer community. Likewise, salesmen can show content and write up orders on the tablet more easily than on an iPhone, he says.

What about existing iPhone apps?Allen expects most existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications will work fine unmodified on the iPad in some kind of window or other mechanism. But developers will likely want to tweak those applications and create iPad-specific versions to, for example, take advantage of higher resolution and perhaps the addition of more players on the tablet, he notes. Allen will be making that assessment for his current iPhone card game app. "That would require some special programming because it will be not just more content, but the content behaves differently," he says.

Mark Johnson of Focused Apps, which offers a Facebook application for the iPhone, concurs that running an iPhone application as-is on the iPad may not be optimal. "The optimal user experience for a tablet device would probably be a little different" than what is now supported on an iPhone application, he says.

To address this issue, the iPad adds a "2X" icon to existing apps that scales them up to the larger screen size. Apple's demos today suggest that the iPad automatically smoothes the graphics and video at the larger size, such as for games.

iPad adoption will drive developer investments Of course, developers will invest in iPad-specific versions only if the device is a success and promises them more app sales. "The tablet might be fantastic ,and certainly we'll try it out to see if our software runs on it. But if they don't sell a lot of units, I imagine we'll stay focused on the iPhone and iPod Touch," says Johnson.

This article, "New iPad means iPhone developers need to think different," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments on mobile computing at InfoWorld.com.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleappsdevelopersiPad

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Krill

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?