Killing our enthusiasm

Dear Steve,

I am an iPhone developer. I love Cocoa Touch—it’s an amazing piece of engineering. I’m having great success with the products I’ve written (one of them even won an ADA at this year’s WWDC.) Sales through iTunes are great and well above my expectations.

And despite of all this, I’m feeling ambivalent about developing new applications for the iPhone.

Of greater concern is that I’m not alone: many of my colleagues are starting to feel the same way. To illustrate, here are some thoughts from people whose work I respect and admire:

Steven Frank – Panic (Transmit/Coda/Unison)

Fraser Speirs – Connected Flow (Exposure)

Wil Shipley – Delicious Monster (Delicious Library)

Brent Simmons – NewsGator (NetNewsWire)

You should also be aware that much of the discontent is being masked by the NDA that’s currently in place. I, and many others, do not want to anger Apple and there are no forums to voice our concerns privately.

As you’ve seen throughout your own career, great engineering is not driven solely by financial rewards. Woz didn’t write Integer BASIC by hand because he thought it would make him rich. Andy Hertzfeld’s and Bill Atkinson’s work on the original Mac wasn’t motivated by greed.

Great developers create amazing software for love as much as money. Take away the artistry and craftsmanship and you’re left with someone pumping out crapware for a weekly paycheck.

I have worked on many different platforms throughout the years: the most important benefit to working on the Mac is the vibrant community of developers. The high quality of Mac applications is due in large part to great developers being able to learn, compete, innovate, and share in a common success. This camaraderie sustains the love for the platform.

I was hoping the same would be true for the iPhone. Sadly, it’s not, and that makes this new platform really hard to love. I’m trying to stay positive in spite of recent developments, but I’m finding my attraction to the iPhone fades a little bit each day. I think it’s important that you know that.

Thanks for your time,

Craig Hockenberry

P.S. As I was writing this essay, Jason Snell and Dan Moren posted some articles at Macworld about the App Store and NDA. The disaffection is starting to spread outside the development community.

Update October 1st, 2008: Thank you.