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.
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 Vlahos, 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 (Vlahos 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.