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  • Pressure Chief

    • 6 out of 10
    • Cake
    • Pressure Chief, Cake's latest album, didn't immediately grab me. In fact, it took perhaps half a dozen listens before I started truly enjoying it. Any

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Once More, with Feeling

    • 10 out of 10
    • Various Artists
    • Most musical episodes of TV shows frankly stink. They are usually little more than ill-conceived vehicles intended to let the stars show off what musical talent they have. Once More, With Feeling,

  • Life's Rich Pageant

    • 8 out of 10
    • R.E.M.
    • In the long series of R.E.M.'s evolution, this album (finally?) showcases their ability to capture on tape what had been happening in the live for years: heartfelt, sweat-filled performances that just
  • De Nova

    • 10 out of 10
    • The Redwalls
    • Wow! Perhaps my 5-star rating is simply because the Redwalls are not only new and fresh (none of them older than 22!), or perhaps its because -- despite their ages -- they are able to totally capture
  • Perverse

    • 8 out of 10
    • Jesus Jones
    • When you think of Jesus Jones, chances are you can't remember them at all, or you vaguely remember "Right Here, Right Now" because it has been use

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The Secret Behind Apple’s iPhone Assault: Xcode & Cocoa

For a long time, developers were told at Apple’s annual worldwide developers conference (WWDC) that Xcode’s interface to the object oriented Cocoa and Objective-C would give them an advantage in the Macintosh market. However, it wasn’t until the iPhone, exploiting those tools, started to take a leadership role in the smartphone business that the advantage fully flourished.

Despite the surge in Mac sales, Apple’s total share of the U.S. market for computers remains at 10 percent and only about 3.4 percent worldwide. When a company faces that kind of uphill battle, there’s a limit to how much even a huge technical advantage can assist.

It reminds one of the days in the early 1990s when Steve Jobs, at NeXT, was proudly showing off the object oriented advantage of his Nextstep system, the birthplace of Objective-C. It was great and was acclaimed as superior to anything Microsoft was offering in the Windows world.

IT managers yawned. They had a different set of boxes to check.

However, when a technical advantage can be introduced into a new product that disrupts an entire market, like mobile smartphones, then the leverage can fully come into play.

That’s why, within the span of just 2008, developers have been able to crank out over 5,500 applications and over 200 million downloads in just 102 days. That technical achievement is attributed by some to Apple’s marketing or simple iPhone mania, but the truth is, those staggering results are the result of the leverage Apple has been able to apply with OS X iPhone, Cocoa, Objective-C and Xcode.

It’s a vindication of the vision of Scott Forestall and Bertrand Serlet in what could be achieved by the combination of tools and iPhone hardware, an ARM processor running at 600+ MHz.

Playing Catchup

The next question to ask is what technologies are being put into place by the competition. While Apple was absorbing the NeXT concepts in the late 90s, turning them into the precursor of Mac OS X, and then refining Mac OS X from 2001 to 2007, the mobile phone companies were playing games with customers and delivering some truly awful user experiences.

As a result, the iPhone competition is forced to adopt the same tactic as Apple did with the original iMac in 1998. Faced with an aging and obsolete Mac OS 8, Apple made up for it with great industrial design. Similarly, the current iPhone competition has, so far, only been able to conjure up cool looking touch screens that fool customers into thinking that their smartphone is "just as good as an iPhone."

Thanks to the technical leverage in software behind the iPhone, developers are going crazy for the device, despite some occasional bad publicity about an application or two suppressed by Apple. With so much at stake, it’s not surprising that Apple plays it close to the vest.

As more and more developers realize what the opportunities are in the iPhone world, Apple’s competitors will fall further and further behind, even as they try to make their smartphones look prettier. In an economic downturn, that means that Apple can expect to do better than expected.

Of course the same thing goes for the iPod touch -- which has access to most of those iPhone apps. Driven by App Store mania, a lot of those touches will be sold this Christmas. Finally, it’s not clear how any company is investing in what it will take to overcome the developer leverage Apple has built up with its toolset -- even Android. Because of the heritage and management of Apple’s competitors, they just aren’t that passionate about the smartphone user experience or investing huge sums to take the, um, next step.


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