Today iPhone Atlas sat down to lunch with Raven Zachary, an Open Source Industry Analyst with The 451 Group and founder of the "iPhone Developers Camp," a free-to-attend conference to be held July 6-8, 2007 at an as-yet unspecified venue in the Bay Area, California (actually the venue and host have already been decided, but that information is still confidential). Raven explained to us the impetus behind the camp, why it will be different from commercial conferences, and why Apple's decision to go Web-only for iPhone development might be like the decision to omit a floppy drive on the original iMac.
First, the iPhone Developers Camp is not a conference in the traditional sense. As mentioned above, it's free to attend and non-profit, built around the BarCamp model. It follows an open source model of gathering developers under one roof to churn out innovative, shippable programs -- in this case, robust Web applications -- by the end of the session. Sponsors don't pay the organizers directly, but rather directly purchase necessary items like meals for attendees, pay for power consumption, t-shirt printing, etc. The goal is to develop, test, ship and announce real iPhone-optimized Web applications over the course of three days.
Raven has been involved with Apple since the days of the Apple II (he actually penned a column for the now defunct MacWEEK in the late 90s), but isn't a Mac developer and as such, wasn't disappointed by Apple's decision to not deliver a full-blown Cocoa-based SDK for the iPhone.
"I think when Apple made the announcement at WWDC, Mac developers were disappointed and Web developers were excited," Zachary said. "I'm not into the 'right' or 'wrong' of Apple's decision. We need to get out there and build great Web apps for the iPhone, period."
He compared the Web-app only model on the iPhone to the exclusion of built-in floppy drive support on the original iMac. Just like the floppy drive axing represented a prophetic recognition of a shift in the way users trade files with the advent of universal Internet access, so does going Web-only for app development signal cognizance of the Web's power to deliver powerful platform-agnostic (but platform-optimized) solutions. Just as the iMac spurred USB device development, so will the iPhone precipitate significant strides in Web development.
"The Web development community is much larger than the Mac development community," said Zachary. "Mac users are really trying to figure out if they want to be Web developers right now."
He also discussed just how ubiquitous Web apps have become.
"Facebook is probably the most widely used application among college students excluding the Web browser," he said. "The iPhone has tremendous value for these users. It's the first time they will be able to take these applications to go."
Regarding why it's important to optimize for the iPhone and not simply pass along a standard desktop-deliverable Web page, Zachary says it's about both connection speed and browser capabilities.
"We've all seen the iPhone render the New York Times front page, so we know it's fully capable. But we have got to design with EDGE speeds in mind, so that's one major consideration," he said.
Zachary is expecting about 200 attendees for his iPhone developers camp, though that number could change dramatically. Also, as aforementioned, we've received word of who the host for this gathering is, but the name is still confidential. Suffice to say, you may be surprised.