The general consensus when Steve Jobs announced that iPhone would support 3rd party apps coded as web applications was not that positive. However, I am here to say that we should keep an open mind as to what kind of capabilities that would be opened up by doing it this way. According to Bruce Stewart’s post at O’Reilly:
It is after all a very good thing that Apple has decided to provide URL-based access to the iPhone’s telephony, email, and other services, but that point really got lost on the crowd I think, who were expecting an SDK to access these things. We’ve known all along that web apps would be one possibility for third-party iPhone development, and Steve’s “there’s no SDK, just use Safari and standard Web 2.0 technologies like Ajax to develop iPhone apps” message didn’t highlight the power of what they are actually allowing here. (As one colleague commented, “just try getting your web app to make an actual phone call on a J2ME-based phone.”) Personally, I think that there are a lot of interesting possibilities for third-party development with this kind of access to the iPhone’s main features, and I’m not surprised that Apple isn’t letting us get at the OS or place buttons on the home screen, but his message clearly didn’t go over well with the developer audience here in San Francisco. Read More.
Obviously, having access to basic phone functions isn’t entirely new as many current mobile web browsers give this basic functionality (if your web pages are coded correctly). The real meat is if web developers are given access to local persistent storage on the phone, access to iTunes, and access to mail and calendar. Another important thing that we would need is access to the multi-touch user interface events (i.e. in addition to the standard onClick and onFocus events, perhaps we would use onPinchIn or onPinchOut events to trigger actions on the web application. I have yet to see any real specifications on this 3rd party web app API, but it does hold some promise (contrary to what many see as a disappointment).
Oh, and one last thing. I also want to be able to run Java ME on the iPhone. I already have two Java ME apps that I use constantly. Gmail and Opera Mini. It would be sweet if the iPhone could leverage the Java ME space. However, I do recall that Steve Jobs once quoted as saying that Java is too heavy weight and isn’t likely to be in its future plans. Therefore, I’d assume that Java ME on the iPhone will most likely never happen.