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iPhone workshop sparks grassroots development

While Apple has yet to host any programming conferences of its own for the iPhone, the unofficial iPhoneDevCamp has already produced a collection of web apps that signaled a quick start to the development community.

Adobe, Yahoo, and numerous other companies as well as hobbyists spent the past weekend at the event held on Adobe's San Francisco campus, helping each other optimize web-based programs and more traditional websites for the days-old Apple communicator.

In some cases, the iPhone's limits have proven frustrating, which organizers themselves revealed in the BarCamp-inspired gathering's opening speech (PDF). Although Apple's web interface follows web standards to the letter and includes the promised ties to calling, e-mail, and maps, any non-Apple plugins —including Flash, Java, and SVG vector images —were already known to be unsupported as of July.

The iPhone's ability to dynamically resize the browser window depending on the physical angle has also created a unique problem for coders who want to fit their site to the iPhone's 320x480 screen: site designers have to include a special exception that detects a change in the site resolution, developers found.

Nevertheless, some developers have already created miniature web programs that bypass several of the perceived limits. Although many of the programs fall into the categories of web games or equivalents to Mac OS X Dashboard widgets, a few utilities have effectively tried to replace full-fledged programs that would otherwise be needed.

Among the examples readied for the weekend were SonicLiving + iTMS, which lets its users browse, sample, and queue up songs to buy later through the iTunes Store's shopping cart method; iPhogo, a Flickr-like utility that uploads iPhone photos to the web through e-mail; and Telekinesis, a remote control suite that steers iTunes music and captures images from the desktop or the iSight camera. Many of these utilities often require a workaround such as other web servers or Mac apps installed outside of the actual phone.

But while the software on display at iPhoneDevCamp has represented a significant step forward for expanding the iPhone beyond its 12 core programs, Adobe itself disclaimed the event from the beginning by placing some of the responsibility for nurturing the phone's development community at Apple's door.

"We suggest that folks speak to Apple directly about what technologies the iPhone will support and integrate," the company says in its FAQ for the event. "Naturally we believe that support for Flash is essential for any mobile device that wants to deliver a great experience for customers."