I spoke today with a leading independent iPhone developer off the record. (Despite the fact that the NDA has been lifted today, one has to be somewhat cautious). A few bullet points:
- iPhone app development can, in fact, be a way to make a living. Our developer reported that in fact after his initial investment, he expected to break even in his first full month of operations -- and is expanding to 4 full-time employees.
- the Apple platform still has some serious shortcomings, but one should view these as opportunities, not problems. In particular, the issue of a true transaction platform is still undefined. There is no way, for example, to upgrade from a free version of an app to a paid version of the same app -- and keep the data. Along the same lines, there is no micro payments mechanism to add additional features to an app (think Facebook virtual goods).
- The lack of a good iPhone camera with video and zoom is probably a strategic move on Apple's part. In all likelihood, Apple is preparing a major push in this direction and wants to make sure that the APIs and platform choices are well enough defined to support something big. Contrast this to Google's strategy of "throwing a lot of pasta against the wall and seeing what sticks" (in the words of John Battelle).
- The developer is planning to attend the O'Reilly iPhone event in November. Appcraver will also be there, and we would love to get together.