I’ve been reading a lot about iPhone applications and development and I have been trying to figure out what is so special about programming for the iPhone. There has been an insane amount of hype surrounding iPhone applications but ultimately an iPhone application is just a website. There are entire meetups being dedicated to iPhone development. While there are also meetups for web developers, is there really any difference? Not really.

When initially announced, one would have imagined that iPhone applications were literally widget-like applications that reside on the phone. Unfortunately those were only dreams. Apple is hoping to suddenly inspire the rest of the web world to adopt new practices that include mobile standards. While I think they may have just inspired a few thousand developers into building “applications” for the phone, I don’t see this as a lasting solution.

Ultimately, the iPhone is a small step forward in the future of mobile development. Rather than opening up their platform they are simply requiring developers to work within the defined constraints of the iPhone. Additionally, developers can only build Safari compatible websites rather than actual applications. Unless Microsoft, Palm, Blackberry, Apple or another mobile OS company opens up their platform for developers, a new competitor will enter the marketplace and rapidly gain marketshare. This new competitor would be the equivalent of what Linux is to Microsoft.

I look forward to the day in which any developer will be able to easily create robust mobile solutions. Currently, the odds of one of the existing mobile providers opening up their existing platform is extremely thin. As I said, the only way this will happen is if a new competitor enters the market. Who will that competitor be? My best guess is Google. Any thoughts?