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Creating Web apps at iPhone Developer Camp

About 300 developers, testers, designers and people with or without an iPhone work on new Web applications.

SAN FRANCISCO--iPhone Developer Camp kicked off here Friday night with about 300 developers, testers, designers and people with or without an iPhone working on new Web applications.

Missing Web apps on your new iPhone? You might find what you're looking for here. Adobe Systems' open office space has turned into hubs of tech geeks frenetically tapping on their keyboards to create new and improved Web applications and games for the iPhone. And there are some serious code writing, documenting and hacking going here at the iPhoneDevCamp, and it's all voluntary work.

Early Saturday afternoon, people were still focusing on individual projects. But in the afternoon they started teaming up. There are also sessions going for example on OpenID and the "fear of JavaScript."

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Some of the developers here commented on the iPhone developer guide not leading anywhere. And there seems to be frustration over Apple not opening an API (application programming interface) for third-party companies and developers.

"Apple is not ready to have a developer community yet," said Christopher Allen, who in 1993 was chair of MacHack, an event where developers innovated together. "This is very close to what a MacHack used to be."

Allen started the iPhone developer community for portable Web 2.0 applications used by the iPhoneDevCamp attendees to upload information.

"Same as the iPod, you have to be on the Apple happy list to be a developer," Allen said. "There has always been this tension with Apple and the developers' community. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a (Apple CEO Steve) Jobs' thing."

The closeness opens avenues for new software innovation, but not without problems. One of the challenges at iPhoneDevCamp is figuring out how to get the Web apps to work with the iPhone's feature of rotating templates.

Joe Hewitt, also a well-known Firefox developer, made some JavaScript experiments with the iPhone earlier this week and hacked the interface so the toolbar on the iPhone display disappears and the page elements stay consistently the same scale when rotating the phone. It's now used by many of the developers at the camp.

To create an iPhone game, Hewitt is teaming up with attendee Nicole Lazzaro from XEODesign, who calls herself an emotional architect who studies people's behavior when playing games. "We try to use the iPhone orientation system to make a game," said Lazzaro. Goal is, by tilting the iPhone from portrait to landscape, that a little character can pick up falling circles and squares using the phone's gravity sensors.

The interfaces used in the iPhone, like the keyboard and all the buttons, were available Friday night on a mysterious Web page that was gone Saturday morning. Someone had managed to encrypt the Apple graphics file and put them online as iPhone images. They were downloaded by a few of the camp attendees and should be very valuable to the developers working with new apps.

Spontaneous demos of new Web apps went on throughout Saturday. Yahoo demonstrated an unreleased Web-based phone service called "Ring Ring" to make long-distance calls. It's currently available for only a few users, but will supposedly be open for all users in a couple of weeks. But Yahoo isn't giving any guaranties that it actually will be launched officially.

Kevin Warnock, CEO and founder of gOffice, talked about his Office 2.0 service of free word processing. Though the word app doesn't copy and paste yet, Warnock worked with a developer at the camp to move around paragraphs in the iPhone word document.

But mostly there are software development going on here at the camp.

As of Saturday night, 19 new apps were pulled out from the event and uploaded to a community site.

"This could be one of the more productive hack fests we had so far," said Chris Messina, co-organizer of the iPhoneDevCamp. Demos of the apps and the Hack-a-thon start on Sunday afternoon.