We recently spoke with Maskim Rogov, president of Nullriver Software. His development team created the software -- Installer.app -- that represents a tipping point of sorts for native, binary applications that run on the iPhone. The program installs itself on iPhones via a graphical Mac OS X program that deprecates previously necessary, multi-step Terminal routines. It can then find, install, uninstall, and update native iPhone applications from the device itself over a Wi-Fi or EDGE connection: a veritable sea change that made third-party iPhone binaries feasible for the userbase at large. [See our guide for Installer.app usage instructions]
While useful third-party binaries are still few and far between, their development cycles are quickening, and new releases increase in volume every day. Nullriver has also been actively improving Installer.app, releasing updates persistently (that the software can apply to itself) -- sometimes two per day. With or without Apple's expressed blessing, it's a burgeoning software ecosystem, and Nullriver is currently at the forefront.
Rogov's comments on:
The potential that Apple will have the capability and/or desire to disallow third-party applications on the iPhone with a future software/firmware update:
"They definitely can, but from what we've seen so far, they don't seem to mind it -- as the last two updates did not interfere with third party development. Its likely in their interest to let this community flourish."
A yet-to-debut killer app for the iPhone:
"A question with a lot of possible answers.Â But one interesting application would be a GPS Â application that uses cell tower information (A-GPS).Â I'm actually hoping to be pleasantly surprised. That, and we do plan to be releasing some ourselves -- so stay tuned."
Whether or not the development of native binaries mean a potential cessation or slow-down in the development of iPhone "Web apps"
"Hopefully (it does) as I think the "Web apps" are very limited and also very time consuming to develop with a "native" user interfaceÂ experience. Not to mention that web applications are fairly limited when it comes to anything graphical or multimedia oriented."
The communal software repository concept
"[...] We have a few distinct focuses such as keeping the repositories maintained by the community, as this allows the application list and the relatively new market to grow. Further, we try to keep things simple and reliable, since this is a mobile device and you want it to work quickly and reliably."