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Learning the iOS 4 SDK for JavaScript Programmers: Create Native Apps with Objective-C and Xcode

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You don’t have to be an Apple fanboy or fangirl to give Apple Inc. credit for redefining mobile gadgetry and its surrounding industries. First the company used the iPod to reshape the music industry and strongly influence how we acquire and consume tunes. Just count the number of people wearing iPod-connected earbuds in a subway car. Then the iPhone rewrote the cellular telephone industry manual, while opening the world’s eyes to the potential of being connected to the Internet nearly everywhere, all the time. It’s happening again with the iPad, where electronic publishing is evolving right before our eyes.

Although the iPhone was an early success with just the workable but limited set of Apple-supplied applications that came with the phone, programmers couldn’t wait to get their hands on the platform. The first word that Apple let drop about third-party developers, however, landed with a bit of a thud: they were graciously allowed to create web apps. Sure, the iPhone’s WebKit-based browser let creative HTML, CSS, and JavaScript programmers create far more than dull web pages, but the apps still faced frustrating limits compared to Apple’s native apps.

It took some additional months, but Apple eventually released a genuine software development kit (SDK) to allow third-party programmers to create native applications for what was then called the iPhone OS. Part of Apple’s task was also creating the App Store to distribute apps—yet another industry-transforming effort. Many existing Mac OS X developers rejoiced because the iPhone OS was derived from Mac OS X. The iPhone SDK was based on the same Xcode tools that Mac developers had been using for some time. The language of choice was Objective-C.

As a happy iPhone early adopter, I eagerly awaited the iPhone SDK. Unfortunately, despite my years of being a dedicated Mac user since 1984 and a scripter since 1987 and the HyperCard days, I had never done any Mac OS X programming. I didn’t know much about C and next to nothing about Objective-C. Still, I thought perhaps my years of experience in JavaScript would be of some help. After all, at one time I even learned enough Java to write a small browser applet to demonstrate how JavaScript code in a web page can communicate with the applet. At least I knew what a compiler did.

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