The Candy Apple Conundrum

I have an IPhone. This is arguably the best phone and mobile device I have ever had my grubby little hands on. Period. No competition. I also have a Macbook Pro. Very nice, expensive, and easy to figure out after a day or two. Nothing special, I’m still more comfortable with the Windows environment.

To be honest, I can’t stand Apple. I hate those self-important narcissistic condescending Mac ads. Really. I want to destroy entire apple orchards because of it.

I do appreciate Apple’s brilliance and unending innovation in terms of user interface and experience, as well as packaging, marketing, and building a rabidly loyal fanbase (don’t bother flaming me again guys, you are wasting your time).

At first glance, the IPhone seems like a super shiny object that does all sorts of wonderful things, and there are loads and loads of interesting applications and content. Yay. The market itself is rapidly growing, the users are the “sweet spot” of users and early adopters, and the app store is a perfectly executed distribution method. Love it. You could even argue that the IPhone has been instrumental (without realizing it) in helping spur interest and momentum in the augmented reality sector.

But I am continually perplexed by Apple’s refusal to open up the undocumented APIs in their SDK to allow augmented reality researchers and developers access to the video stream from the camera. This is a critical element for any type of visual tracking (markers, feature tracking, and markerless tracking). Some people figured some work arounds to make it work with the 2.x version of the SDK which is nice, except that this automatically disqualifies any applications from distribution in the app store. What really kills me though, is that on one hand, Apple made a play for welcoming AR applications with the 3.x version of the SDK, but only provided access to the overlay, while at the same time completely changing where the undocumented API calls were located, further obfuscating things and handicapping all R&D.

Making things worse, and I’ve blogged about this before, is that there is a perception that the IPhone is the only platform worth pursuing for AR. If you aren’t developing for the IPhone, investors, venture capitalists, and the media don’t care and start slamming doors. The reality of the world market is that the IPhone is only a fraction of the entire market share. From a business perspective, development for the IPhone should be a secondary or tertiary effort, with focus on others like Android, Symbian, and WinMobile. Even the IPhone hardware is lacking in features like video in (necessary for external cameras, likely mounted to the frame of glasses or wearable displays), and others.

Nearly everyone I spoke to at ISMAR echoed my sentiments here. We all *want* to develop for the IPhone, and need to if we want to build a business, but we are being forced to consider alternatives. This is unacceptable. Next-generation mobile augmented reality has the potential to DRIVE SALES OF IPHONES, but as long as Apple is blocking work here, there is a huge opportunity for competitors to jump into the fray and court the developer community. If this keeps up, the IPhone will remain as the coolest phone on the block, but someone else will have the ultimate mobile AR platform.

Think about it Apple! Let’s work something out, and soon, so we can get back to the task of advancing the technology and creating some mind-blowing applications.

Call me, mmmkay? I want my candied apple.

Robert