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Exactly right. Microsoft was profoundly ahead of the curve! They were pushing their tablet/slate stuff 5+ years before the iPhone and iPad. Their key mistake was attempting to leverage Windows, which forced an awkward stylus mode driving a shoehorned desktop OS.

Apple blindsided them with a better cellphone instead of a worse computer, and so it slotted in naturally

Microsoft could only conceive of Windows devices. Apple's big idea was to not make the iPhone a Mac. If anything, they overcorrected, dragged kicking and screaming into allowing apps at all.

> If anything, they overcorrected, dragged kicking and screaming into allowing apps at all.

A lot of people forget this, but it's true: Apple didn't want _anyone_ to be able to make native apps on iOS except themselves. That they changed their minds and helped devs make a ton of money tends to erase this fact of history.

I have this conspiracy theory that I half believe: it was all a ruse.

Apple knew that there would be huge pushback against a walled garden appstore with Apple in absolute control, and huge pushback on them taking a 30% cut. So they started with "just write web apps". But of course, they also inexplicably made the first iPhone 2G only! Flagship phones that shipped many months before the iPhone had 3G. Why cut that particular corner, and not any others in their otherwise $$$-is-no-object new wonderphone?

You can do a much better job hiding low bandwidth and high latency in a native app, especially since app assets get downloaded once (probably over wifi) at app install time. So by essentially making app developers beg for access to their native platform, they radically reduced the anger at their wildly locked-down appstore and their 30% cut.

And it seemed a little suspicious how quickly they were able to deliver a 3rd-party SDK and developer documentation.

they also inexplicably made the first iPhone 2G only!

This has been one of the go-to plays in Apple's playbook since the very beginning. Steve Jobs was always opposed to Macs having any form of user-upgradable parts [1]; he wanted people to buy a brand new computer every time theirs became obsolete. As it happens, this occurred almost immediately after the Mac 128k's launch (almost no 3rd party apps supported it). The first generation iPhone was an exact repeat!

[1] https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Diagnostic_Port....

Yes, like Microsoft, once they had established themselves as an engineering company with consumers of not-fully-developed product, they were then able to exploit the anti-reuse/recycling angle more lucratively than their engineering.

It was a very thin ruse, but there's no real conspiracy theory required. The original iPhone was a beta product rushed to market to make everyone else look "last gen". The final APIs, SDK, store infrastructure, and so on was simply not ready. And yes from day 1, rumors were a SDK was coming.

> And it seemed a little suspicious how quickly they were able to deliver a 3rd-party SDK and developer documentation.

How much of this is explained by needing an SDK and developer documentation for internal apps? (That is, had Apple not built an App Store, it would have been all the more important to make sure Mail, Maps, Safari, the built-in YouTube app, etc. were high-quality.)

In part I'm curious if the engineering culture was that reasonable-quality docs were expected for internal developers.

Never worked at Apple specifically, but every place I've worked had little to no docs on internal tools. The expectation was that you'd go ask the person who wrote it, or absorb the tribal knowledge as part of on-boarding. There was even low-level resistance to folks who tried to document the ambient knowledge to help out new employees.

Also, keep in mind, in the timeframe that is relevant here, the only apps were Mail and Safari. Apple making Mail a native app from the start was another tell that "you should just build web apps" was disingenuous.

Weren't YouTube and Maps also part of iPhone OS 1.0?

Wasn't Palm taking a 80% cut in their glory days? (My google skills fail me) I heard developers saying that 30% was a great deal at the time.

No. Virtually all PalmOS software sales were either direct via dev’s web site, or via palmgear.com, which was a sort of app store for its time. They were not affiliated with Palm the company or its entities. Absolutely no platform DRM whatsoever, and all apps were basically “side loaded” onto devices, regardless of origin.

I think it was Handango that set the 30% expectation. They were the first with such a high cut I think, and was among the first app sites for most of the PDAs of the time.

30% was pretty offensive after years of shareware.

But then apps cost pennies compared to the software we were used to. Office cost many hundreds of dollars and I regularly paid £400+ for PC programs that did just one thing. £350 for Photoshop was a steal.

But then apps came along costing a small handful of dollars. They also did things you could not do on your PC due to the connectivity, the camera and the sensors. Everything changed when it came to price expectations.

Imagine if they had announced apps were coming for the iPhone, and potential customers waited for apps to come out and app developers waited for people to buy the phone.

Apple basically needed a take it or leave it strategy for the first release.

How do we know this was their actual strategic internal decision vs a practical one because an SDK for third party applications wasn’t ready yet or not important at launch?

Steve Jobs was very careful about the “Osborne effect”. Even if they had plans for an App SDK as part of the future iPhone roadmap, he would have never divulged it, to prevent customers from deffering purchases

Because of the WWDC events in which they touted their web-based API at the time as being all one needed to compete with Apple's own native apps. That turned out to be completely untrue and they backtracked.

I'm not convinced they believed that at the time.

That would have still been the right thing for them to say publicly if they did intend to release an SDK later though. Since it’s been a long time now, I’ve wondered if anyone’s spoken to their internal positioning.

Wasn’t the original idea that apps weren’t required, as html5 would be sufficient? Jobs initialy believed in webapps.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything about no kinds of third party applications on ios at all

Almost every platform seems to have believed in web apps at some point. Nokia did an attempt with Symbian, Palm had WebOS, Samsung tried that with Tizen, Apple with iPhones, Microsoft for Windows 8, Mozilla's Firefox OS...

I'm sure I forgot a few. All attempts failed quite completely.

>I'm sure I forgot a few. All attempts failed quite completely.

You forgot BlackBerry, who failed themselves spectacularly by becoming a patent troll.


Still props to them that they saw it would be a benefit to the platform to allow it, and did so pretty quickly.

Yup, it was going to be an embedded, first-party personal organizer.

It also took MS forever to have an ARM version of Windows...

Depends on your definition of "Windows": Windows CE ran on ARM in the 1990s.

WinCE was really their most accurately named OS to date.

Ive seen this remark before. What does it mean?



Nowadays "Windows" usually refers to "Windows NT"; not Windows 9x or Windows CE.

Windows NT was highly portable. It ran on PowerPC, Alpha, Itanium, and a whole lot of other architectures. The same is true for iOS.


Then they dragged their feet and kept Windows 2000 x86 only (I think - maybe they had an Itanium version) they had a half-ready x64 version of Windows XP

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