Back when the iPhone first launched and the App Store was still a twinkle in Apple’s eye, the only way to get your goods onto the platform was to develop them as an iPhone-optimized web page – otherwise known as an iPhone Web App. Unable to make use of much of iPhone’s functionality (like the GPS, camera, etc.), Web Apps were quickly considered the inferior option when Apple unshackled the iPhone SDK, opening the doors for the standalone Objective-C apps which have since flooded through the App Store. It was great news for Objective-C developers and consumers looking for rich applications – but not so much for those who’d grown accustomed to developing for the web.
How the API-related stuff works is still a bit of a mystery. 280 North is keeping mum on their methods for the time being – not only for the sake of maximum impact when Atlas launches in the coming months, but also because they’re still determining which of a handful of approaches will work best. I’d assumed that Atlas compiled the user’s code within a wrapper which served as a middle man, passing API calls to the iPhone and returning the results, but a quick chat with Tolmasky indicated that this wasn’t necessarily the case.
If it works as demonstrated, it’s a wonderful idea. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.