Subscribe to Updates

Click here to subscribe to new posts by email. We use Google FeedBurner to send these notifications.

iPhone and Web 2.0 Apps

Posted on: June 19th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 17 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.

I need to step in here and talk about the iPhone.

I’m not saying at this point what our plan is with respect to iPhone development, but I want to dispell the notion that Apple is supporting third-party apps. Last week they issued a press release saying they’ll support “Web 2.0 apps”. This has a number of our customers excited, saying all we have to do is convert MyBible or PocketBible to Web 2.0 and it will run on the iPod.

The problem is that there’s no such thing as Web 2.0.

“Web 2.0″ is a term that was invented by a computer book publisher to sell books. There’s not a “Web 2.0 standard” that you can download. In fact, nobody really agrees on what “Web 2.0″ is. As close as you can come is that it refers to “cool stuff” on the Web. So an old HTML-based Web site is plain-old Web 1.0, where this WordPress blogging software and our tech support help desk software is Web 2.0.

The one thing we know for sure is that we’re not talking about “applications” in the sense that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are applications, but rather we’re talking about fancy Web sites. In other words, Apple isn’t opening the platform to third-party developers, but rather they’re going to have a really nice Web browser. Pardon me if I’m not impressed.

This is particularly nasty for Bible software. Instead of having your 200 MB Bible library on your phone/PDA for instant access, you’ll be accessing it over and over from a Web site. In addition to the obvious speed issues you’re looking at paying for a data plan from your carrier, which adds significantly to your cost.

Again, we’re not saying we’re giving up on the iPhone. I’m just saying that this big-deal press release doesn’t say what some of you think it says.

17 Responses

  1. Nathan says:

    Yah, Web 2.0 is a buzz word that could mean any number of things. It tends to involve XmlHttpRequest (AJAX) to make requests in the background, and a lot of fancy JavaScript to make things more interactive.

    Still, it is quite lacking, especially for software with a large amount of data like electronic books. It means paying the phone company for data whenever you do something. Basically, we could have a nice version of BibleGateway. Maybe even have an account to store bookmarks and perhaps even highlighting. I’m not sure what the data plan costs will be like, but I think a Treo, or just a Palm+typical phone is a better solution if wanting something like MyBible.

  2. Marc Thompson says:

    OK. Will the Ipod text version of your program work on an iphone? If so, are you planning on releasing other translations besides the NLT.

  3. It’s unlikely the iPhone will support the iPod “Notes” app, which is what we use to display our text. But we don’t know and won’t know until it comes out.

    We haven’t announced any iPocketBible versions other than the NLT, but there will be at least one more.

  4. Bill Sprague says:

    Craig,

    Now we’ve been informed that Word and Excel documents can be read on the iPhone. I have to assume there’ll be no editing capability. DataViz is a long time supplier of Mac to PC conversion software and their site seems silent on iPhone.

    Bill

  5. Craig says:

    Craig,

    Thanks for clearing up some of my questions about switching to the iPhone. Even though it looks great, and is a much better internet browser than my Treo, I use my Laridian software every single day and I would not want to function without it. I am going to be sticking with my old Treo 650 for awhile longer.

    Dan

  6. Nathan says:

    Considering that there is an unlimited data plan, the only real issue is *performance* as you move around the Bible (well, and connectivity). With some fancy JavaScript, one could cache some of the text… even prefetch the next chapter.

    There appear to be some interface limitations… for example, there is no cut & paste on the iPhone. You may not be able to select text to highlight, and could be a little tedious to select text with a finger anyway. For something like that, perhaps tapping the verse marker could toggle highlighting a single verse. Then store that back to the server for when you come back to the web site.

    P.S. I happen to be a web developer of 10 years, but this Web 2.0 stuff is pretty new to me (this year). Currently working in Ruby on Rails with Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada through September (co-op program).

  7. You’re right about speed being an issue. The EDGE network is described as not much better than dial-up, and the iPhone 1.0 devices won’t be able to be upgraded to take advantage of a faster network later. As you sign over your $600 for your iPhone, imagine a loud flushing sound. :-)

    Yes, one could pre-fetch the next chapter — if you know that’s where the user is going. But then fetching takes time and you can only do one thing at a time, so there will be a delay if the user tries to do something while you’re pre-fetching, and it will be especially noticeable if after pre-fetching where you think the user is going, they tell you to go somewhere else and has to wait while you finish fetching what they don’t want AND while you fetch what they do.

    I would be disappointed but not surprised to find that there’s no copy/paste. And I agree that some operations would be very awkward because of the way Apple has chosen to implement “third party apps”.

  8. Antoine of MMM says:

    Ok, so no copy/paste, implement the UI to have “buttons” at the front of each verse, or on the verse numbers that enable a “select verse/highligting feature.” Seems possible and not much more of an issue than turning on a state of the verse ;)

    I’m a web developer too, UI/UX side of things and I see the possiblity. Though I am not sure that the serverside costs are something that are worth the investment just yet.

  9. Mary says:

    Just a note of appreciation…for hosting a blog that facilitates an open dialogue about new technologies and how best our beloved Laridian software might function on same. A good number of us, I imagine, are at the 101 level of understanding, technologically speaking…so you folks in possession of the higher level of understanding are those we look to as we endeavor to sort through the hype and find the substance and reality of what these new devices are actually able to offer us.

    I am a Mac enthusiast who has managed, to date, to live without a cell phone, believe it or not! Yes…there are some of us still roaming the earth, although are numbers are dwindling! I tried to sell myself on the iPhone and its abilities to do for me what my Axim X30 does, presently…but the functionality is just not there, it’s not even close to being there. I wonder if all those who laid down their hard-earned cash really gave it much thought before making the purchase? Now that Dell has dumped the Axim line, I must pray my little X30 stays healthy.

    I would love it if y’all would offer some guidance, if it doesn’t violate protocol of any kind, as to what types of devices you find work best with the Laridian software. I will be watching and listening…and thank you, again, for making available to us all, clearly stated thoughts and opinions.

  10. Nathan says:

    I am a cell-phone free Mac enthusiast too Mary. I’ve been on Mac for about 5 years (since Mac OS X). I’ve used Palm for longer yet, but my Tungsten T is on it’s last legs. I’m cautious about buying a nearly 2-year old design TX right now, and not terribly interested in the Treo, but quite curious as to what the Foleo would look like as an eReader platform. No, not pocketable, but a good size for transit and traveling. Palm seems in complete contrast to Apple on this one. Not only having an SDK, but basing the platform on Linux, how open can it get? I’ll be curious to see how well it emulates existing Palm apps, and what else Palm has up their sleeves.

    fyi, Apple has published a guide for web developers:
    http://developer.apple.com/iphone/designingcontent.html
    (many of the things it doesn’t do are related to the touch screen interface… i believe it lacks cut/paste throughout)

  11. Nathan says:

    @Craig, that’s true about pre-fetching. The funny thing is that there isn’t much “Web 2.0″ about the iPhone’s functionality. Yes, you could send requests in the background to save highlights or retrieve dialogs without closing down the page you’re on… the basic AJAX stuff. But the fellows over at 37signals tried doing transitions and such for Tada list, and it was much too slow.

    Still, I think you could do some interesting things with the viewport. Flipping landscape or portrait. The nice flick to scroll. And you could even use zooming… say the page is at 100% by default, but if you zoom out, you get a multi-column page of the chapter with rather large verse markers. Then you could zoom back in somewhere and it would do it’s thing to bring it back to 100%. If that works, it’d be a pretty nifty way to hop around a chapter, and see highlights at a glance.

    If nothing else, such a project is a great excuse to buy a bunch of iPhones. Have fun guys, I look forward to seeing what you come up with. :-)

  12. Flipping landscape to portrait is built into the browser. All your Web apps will do that.

    None of the gestures are readable by the “applications”. They control the browser only. The “application” (which is really just a Web page) just sits there while the user scrolls around.

    Here’s what I’m concerned about: On the Pocket PC, Pocket Internet Explorer gives you a choice of viewing Web pages in a format that is scaled to be readable on a small screen, or that is the same size as on your desktop with horizontal and vertical scrolling, or that tries to render the whole page in one long column to eliminate horizontal scrolling. For most sites (not all) one of those techniques works.

    On the iPhone they squeeze the entire page on the display even though it’s undreadable. Then they give you clever ways to zoom and scroll. It’s like they had these cool gestures but needed a place to show them off. So rather than write a browser that attempts to render Web content in a way that makes it more readable, they just smush it all on there and let you gesticulate your way around the page.

    We’ll just have to see what clever ways developers come up with to make the thing usable.

  13. Nathan says:

    From reading through Apple’s guide, there were a few tags to control how the viewport behaves. Things the maximum and minimum scale… it’s also possible to set the initial scale of the page.

    When zoomed into a page, I’m not sure what happens when you get to the bottom of the page. Does it stop? Or does it break the page down like the Pocket PC? (seems unlikely). So, perhaps those ideas won’t work so well… and it may be better just to have an endless single column of text. An endless single column of text seems like it would need to do some pre-fetching as you reach the end of the page… but I have no idea if you can track the scroll position or do something like that. It really could be quite limiting, this fancy new iPhone… but perhaps they will software patch it with some new goodies by the time you’re ready for prime time.

    You can do a liquid layout that can be 320 wide or 480 wide, that way both landscape and portrait will show everything. I think someone did some polling to see when the screen size changed as well… rotate, pick a book, rotate, read… heh.

    I’m sure I’ll be wasting huge amounts of time figuring out how to develop for them if I had one. But I’m spared by being Canadian, so by the time I can get one, there will be ample documentation and info on the web. :-)

  14. Wheat Williams says:

    You act as if the only way you could make MyBible work on the iPhone would be to host the Bibles on a Web site, implying that an iPhone user would have to have access to the Web to read the Bibles.

    You could more easily construct an HTML application for the iPhone where the Bible data is stored locally in the flash memmory of the iPhone. You would read it by starting up the Web browser, but no actual Web access would be needed for the Bibles.

    All Web browsers on any computer can work with data stored locally and not over the Internet.

  15. We act that way because it’s a fact. You can’t transfer files to the iPhone other than the PIM and iPod synchronization that happens through iTunes. You can’t put an arbitrary file on the iPhone, then direct the browser to it.

    And even if you did, who’d want it? It would be just the Bible text. No searching for words and phrases. No notes or highlights.

    All iPhones come with unlimited data plans. The way to implement the Bible for the iPhone is via a Web-based application.

    Craig

  16. Tim says:

    Hi,

    There are now 3rd party apps running on the iPhone. Any thoughts on building one?

  17. What third party apps are you speaking of? There aren’t any supported by Apple — the ones I know of require you to hack your iPhone to get access to the underlying OS. You need a Mac and some Linux experience. If that’s what you’re referring to, the answer is no, we’re not going to ask our customers to void their warranty to run our software.

    Our iPhone app should be ready very soon. I’m looking at over 100 Bibles and reference books on my iPhone right now.

    Craig

©2014 Laridian