Diary of an iPhone Developer: The iPad

The simulator that comes with the iPad developer kit.
The simulator that comes with the iPad developer kit.

It's finally here! The new iPad is almost exactly what the rumor mill has been churning up for months but somehow seeing the thing officially announced still makes my jaw drop a little. Why? Because it opens up some new opportunities for iPhone developers without making them jump through a lot of hoops.

For starters, it runs iPhone apps out of the box. It's true that apps built for the 320-by-480-pixel iPhone 3.5-inch screen might look a little funky on the iPad's 9.7-inch lush 1024-by-768-pixel display. But this was a great move on Apple's part to avoid alienating 100,000+ mobile apps for release. Much in the way the Classic layer did for OS X and Rosetta did for the switch to Intel architecture, this was a logical way to bridge the transition while developers update their apps for the larger display.

The new SDK makes it easy to view your app on the iPad before you can even get your hands on the device.

Apple released the new 3.2 SDK beta to general developers today. I'm still in the process of downloading the whopping 2GB update (by comparison, the newest Android SDK is only 20MB) but a glance at the 3.2 API differences are, unsurprisingly, very iPad-oriented. A great number of additions are for text layout, which is great for e-book content; E-Ink won't hold a candle to this puppy as the new APIs should make the iPad perfect for displaying content exactly as it is in its print counterpart. Also, a lot of robust movie playback features have been added as well as a brand new class called "UIGestureRecognizer" which, as the name implies, expands upon the already stellar touch input libraries.

The new SDK makes it easy to create distinct iPhone and iPad UIs over the same app and features a new iPad Simulator that helps you debug and view your UI before you can even get your hands on the device. The SDK also includes APIs to allow developers to utilize external displays attached to an iPad.

Am I disappointed the iPad doesn't run desktop OS X? Sure, it would have been interesting to run Photoshop on an iPad, but the choice to go with an augmented iPhone OS was clear: The iPhone has one of the best best mobile OS's out there and the iPad is very much a mobile device. It is truly a computer built for consumption rather than creation. Still, it will be interesting to see the sorts of "creation" style apps that developers will come up with. I expect that the painting app we saw demoed at the announcement, "Brushes," is just the beginning.

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