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Web Applications for the Apple iPhone 3G
Can you handle your success?

David Abramowski's Blog

It seems that Apple has another winner on their hands with the new Apple iPhone 3G. There are now millions of people connected to the Internet every minute of every day using this device. The fast adoption has created a tremendous opportunity for software vendors and companies to take advantage of an extremely large ecosystem of end users. The ecosystem is alive and well with the streamlined experience of the Apple App Store.

This integrated web application is a directory of items available for the iPhone. Just this week Steve Jobs expressed his excitement with the more than 60 million downloads since the opening of the store a short few weeks ago.

With millions of targeted devices that span a wide range of end users and a proven ability to distribute applications to those devices, there is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to make a name for themselves. The iPhone presents three opportunities to the world of software development that are ripe for the pickings. The first opportunity is to directly develop applications that run resident on the device. The second opportunity extends the device as a new input medium for web applications. This opportunity allows iPhone users to access their bank accounts, get directions, lookup information on the web....all with the few strokes of a finger. The third opportunity is the blended application. This is where device resident applications leverage the connectivity to back end systems to provide capabilities both on and off the 3G/Wireless network. Blended applications make using the iPhone interesting and convenient for both consumers and businesses.

There have been mobile devices in the market for quite some time now, why is the Apple iPhone different? This is purely my opinion but after using the device for two weeks now it's one simple element. Human factors. Using the iPhone touch screen and learning simple gestures to navigate vast amounts of information provide a strategic advantage. Everyone knows how to point and touch something. You don't need to be trained. You don't need to re-condition your fingers to fit a new style keyboard atop pencil erasers. You just point at what you want, zoom in if you can't read it, zoom out to get a holistic view - all of this leading to a simple end user experience.

Now back to the business aspect of the iPhone. Blended applications are tremendously powerful and give the iPhone an enterprise appeal as a new way of doing business. The iPhone can actually replace computers or expensive purpose built devices. Let’s take an example of a company that provides all sales reps with a laptop to enable inventory lookup and customer ordering. Both of these are applications that are suitable to the iPhone. Imagine the cost savings of replacing the $1500 notebook computers of all the sales reps of a fortune 500 company with a $199 device that doesn’t require legions of technical support analysts. The iPhone has the ability to shift not only consumer behavior but also the behavior of today’s connected company.

Although the iPhone is an amazing platform for enabling the end user, it seems that Apple has ignored an important factor in the success of the web application angle of their business. If you read the Apple developers site and look at the requirements of registering an application for the Apple App Store, it just says that you must find a host and have your application available via a URL. Basically this means Apple is saying, we gave you the touch point to the customer now it’s up to you to figure out the rest. By turning a blind eye to the environment challenges of a web application, Apple puts the users of web applications at risk. Each web app in the App Store should come with a giant label that says “Buyer Beware”. Because there is no way to know if the company providing that application has the slightest clue on how to run, manage and maintain an environment that may quickly be overloaded by its own success. Most developers can figure out how to download and install an open source technology stack to run a web application. But the challenge comes when that application must be secure and reliable. The challenge then balloons when there is success, requiring investment in not only technology but also the people capable of architecting a solution.

This is where Morph’s Platform as a Service can bridge the gap between the possible and probable. The Morph AppSpace environment is much more than just a “host” for web applications. It’s a true managed service that employs people, process and technology to create an environment that can literally pamper a web application. High availability, load balancing, environment security, system administration, database integrity, continuous backups, real time monitoring are all a standard component of the Morph AppSpace. The application developer no longer needs to concern themselves with all of the headaches and time constraints of building a web application environment. The developer can focus on their application and nearly instantly bring it to market.

In this hyper growth phase of the iPhone phenom, the first movers have the advantage. Blended applications running on the iPhone allow companies to increase their stickiness and make it difficult for competitors to replace them. But waiting for the system administrators to figure out how to get the MySQL database to talk to an app server may close the window of opportunity.

 

About David Abramowski
David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.

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