Apple’s announcement of their software development kit was big in the tech news arena but got scant coverage in the search world. From where I sit, it appears to be a seminal event that will define local search for the next decade and will lead to a dramatic upsurge in hyper local searches.
There was much speculation about the iPhone tools prior to their release and developers expressed fears about limited access and undocumented api’s. Apple seems to have exceeded developer expectations on that front and delivered a product that can access all of the capabilities of the iphone and iPod Touch while simultaneously offering low barriers to entry and ready distribution. The SDK, despite its early bugs, appears to have been widely embraced and there are significant rewards in the offing to the developers that create popular apps.
The release has moved the iPhone from being a very cool cell phone to being the archetype of the mobile internet device; always on, always present, no limits to what or when something can be retrieved. It will put gaming, calling, music AND search in the hands of users all the time in every location and will (or something very much like it), like the iPod before it, become annoyingly present in our lives.
Having local search available to me all the time during my work day has made me a local search junky. Most people, if they had similar access would use it equally as much. Users of the iPhone are already searching the internet more than anyone thought they would. When the iPhone becomes the teenage toy of choice and the symbol of hipsters everywhere, this affect will only be magnified. At that point, smartphones as we now know them i.e. quite dumb with terrible interfaces will become marginalized.
Local Search will become a passion along with accelerometer driven versions of PacMan and access to the corporate email system. All those folks that don’t have Local Search capability 24/7 will now be enabled and Local Search will grow from important niche to a dominating presence as the iPhone and the iPod Touch become THE choice for devices to access the mobile internet, not just a phone or iPod with some nice apps.
And as web developers and search marketers, because of this, our jobs have become infinitely easier. We hopefully won’t need to develop WAP supported websites and .mobi domains. Here is what Matt Cutts said in a recent interview:
We have been doing a great effort for mobile devices and I think in the past year I have been struggling with what is going to be the future? Should mobile sites be designed for iPhones or SmartPhones?
The short answer to this question is the target market. If your target market is in the United States, it is quite evident that phones are going to get better and smarter. Soon phones will be getting even smarter, and have browsers that will be able to support richer websites. So I think the focus should be to concentrate on creating good websites that would look good in mobile browsers as well as regular browsers, instead of creating specialized websites for smart phones only.