Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What the NDS and iPhone Have In Common

This past weekend I saw a copy of Opera for the Nintendo DS just idly sitting on the store shelf. I picked up a copy and thought to myself "damn, I'm out of the loop. I didn't even realize this was out yet!" Evidentially I picked up an early copy - the release wasn't reported until the following Monday.

I'm surprised how much I'm using the browser. I didn't think I'd be the type to roam through my house checking random sites on the NDS. But in an age of ubiquitous WebMail and continuously streaming blogs, a device that allows you to quickly scroll through snippets of online text is actually pretty useful. There turns out to be plenty of opportunities where I "just want to check something," such as see if a webcomic has been posted for today or check if I've received new e-mail at work. Instances not exactly worth booting up a laptop, but perfect for just cracking open the NDS and hopping on wireless briefly.

The DS doesn't have an open third-party SDK, and no accessible means for running homebrew currently exists. Instead, Nintendo is hoping that Web applications will grant enough functionality to fill the gap. Sound familiar?

Steve Jobs' recent keynote hammered home the insistence that while 3rd party API exposure won't be available for the iPhone, Web applications will be more than enough to offer custom functionality. He suggests that a Web browser can be used in lieu of an ability to launch third-party applications.

The assertion that modern Web applications, what with their asynchronous JavaScript and XML, can replace standard applications is pretty ridiculous. Can JavaScript monitor what roaming tower your SIM card is using? Er... no. Can XML be used to play Doom? No. While you may be able to monitor a RSS mashup, no applications can leverage the hardware in your hand. Saying that any Web application is going to replace a device's native API is hella stupid.

But will the lack of third-party applications hurt the iPhone's success? Not likely. Lack of homebrew availability on the NDS hasn't exactly hurt sales all that much. If you do something and do it well, you're going to sell.

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