Over the last week, a number of web developers have announced Web 2.0-style applications for the iPhone. There’s even a site dedicated to these (although it seems to be down now after all the recent Digg activity.) The idea goes like this: if you’ve got to connect to the Internet with your iPhone, why not publish your Dashboard-style widgets as actual web pages? After all, you can use them on your Mac, on your iPhone and now in Windows. With a bit of low-cost hosting and some decent “lickable” design, congratulations, you’ve become an iPhone developer.
The problem for me about this kind of approach is that moving applications off your phone and onto the web means that you’ve got buy into both a huge paradigm shift as well as an actual data shift. After all, your data is there on the web, while you’re standing here with your iPhone. Does that work for you?
Do you trust the web? How many stories have you heard about Gmail accounts suddenly losing their data? And do you really trust Google and Yahoo enough to entrust all your calendar, word processing and spreadsheet data to them?
What about your things to do list? Do you trust a third-party developer to hold onto that data? And connecting means a data plan, which costs money possibly lots of money. As one comment on my recent post here at O’Reilly noted, are you willing to pay every time you want to check a to-do list? What about if you only use WiFi? Are you willing to wait until a hotspot shows up before you can see what items are on your shopping list? Or before you can add butter, paper towels, and lettuce to that list?
Of course, if you can log into your home computer with the new Leopard Mac-to-go features announced at the WWDC keynote, a lot of these problems become less of an issue. You don’t have to worry as much about trusting your data if you are hosting your own data on your home computer. But you’re still left with the connection issue. Has Apple figured out how to make a data plan so cheap that ubiquitous computing becomes the real killer iPhone app?