Apple announced its long awaited iPad tablet device last week, and like you we were all anxious to see it.
What we’re being told is that it will run most iPhone apps unmodified. They will only take up about 1/4 of the screen, since the iPad screen is significantly larger than the iPhone. We don’t have any reason to believe PocketBible won’t run on the iPad, but we’re doing what we can to make sure.
While the SDK has been distributed to developers, it is only a beta and we are unable to build what Apple calls “universal apps” that will allow the same binary file to run on either an iPhone or an iPad. We also don’t have access to pre-production devices, so we can only run in the emulator that is built into the development tools. So we have some reason to believe that PocketBible will work as-is but can’t be absolutely sure at this point because we’ve never seen it run on a device.
There are some simple user interface changes we’ll be making in the short term to better take advantage of the iPad’s capabilities. In addition, there are some new capabilities in the iPad version of the OS that aren’t yet in the iPhone that we’d like to investigate — what Apple calls “Core Text” is at the top of that list.
It’s not obvious from the end-user point of view, but PocketBible pushes the limits of the iPhone’s abilities when it comes to displaying text. PocketBible is exactly the type of application that the iPhone OS was not designed for — that is, an app that does sophisticated text rendering. The new iPad, with its bigger screen and potentially more usable keyboard, invites applications like word processors that need sophisticated layout capabilities. PocketBible is in that camp.
This is not unique to the iPhone. Windows Mobile also lacks key text rendering capabilities that are present in its big brother, Windows on the desktop. For example, it’s not possible in Windows Mobile to accurately measure the width of a piece of text as it will be displayed on the screen. You can almost do it, but it doesn’t work right for bold and italics. So we’ve had to implement our own functions for this.
We could probably get into a lengthy discussion of whether or not this form factor is something the public will accept. I’ve seen everything from people who want it to replace their phone (assuming they can keep from knocking themselves unconscious when they answer it) to those who point out that tablet computers with full-blown operating systems have failed to capture consumer attention, which causes one to question whether a similar device with a mobile OS stands a chance.
That said, one of my long-standing complaints about devices such as the Sony Reader and the Kindle are that they don’t allow any kind of third-party software. (Or at least until recently when Amazon announced a “Kindle Developer’s Kit” for Kindle.) My Kindle is great, but it’s horrible for Bible study because the software simply doesn’t have the features you need to access an integrated Bible library, or even perform moderately sophisticated searches. Viewed as a souped-up e-book reader, the iPad may stand a chance. While it’s hard to imagine anyone beating Amazon’s selection of e-books for Kindle, if anyone has a chance of doing so it would be Apple.
The iPad could actually be the perfect electronic Bible study device. It’s just portable enough to be truly portable, while being large enough to facilitate convenient cross-referencing between titles.
From a developer’s standpoint there’s not a whole lot to complain about. It’s like a big iPhone, so everything we’ve learned about iPhone and Mac programming transfers painlessly to the iPad. We’re not crazy about the shortsightedness of some of their new features (“split views” being at the top of that list for you programmers) but we’ve also seen initial shortsightedness in the iPhone OS get repaired in subsequent releases. Unfortunately, like the similar issues that arose years ago on the Palm OS, by the time the official solutions are released everyone has already coded their own work-arounds to meet user demand.
What all this boils down to is that we fully plan to support the iPad and in fact enhance PocketBible over time to take advantage of unique iPad features. We think it could be an ideal Bible study platform for those who have the spare change to invest in one.