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We’re open sourcing our iPhone time tracking app for MacWorld

by Sunir Shah  |  January 5/2009  | 

Today, we’re open sourcing our iPhone time tracking app.

It’s been hard to build iPhone applications. If you don’t know Objective-C, and you don’t know the iPhone SDK, there is a steep learning curve. I’ve talked to a lot of FreshBooks customers over the past year that want to build iPhone applications, and many of them have gotten stuck because few companies have shared their code.

That kind of sucks.

We decided to give something back to our customers by sharing what we’ve learnt. We want to support our customers that want to make the leap to becoming iPhone developers.

A solid thank you to FreshBooks customer and awesome iPhone developer Dave Grijalva whom we hired to build the iPhone application for us.

It’s about building a community

We hope that our little gift will spur others to follow suit. A healthy development community thrives on sharing code.

We’re grateful for Automattic for taking the lead by open sourcing their free WordPress iPhone application. Since the NDA was lifted, it’s nice to see a few others are also following their lead like TouchCode and AppsAmuck.

However, very few other projects have followed suit. Without a healthy development community sharing code, it’s more likely that future applications will be built as web applications, a new distribution method as of iPhone OS 2.1.

And while frankly that is probably easier for developers, it does mean that users will be able to download iPhone applications from anywhere on the Web. That means that the market of iPhone applications is at risk of being fractured. If it’s really hard to find an application, it will be harder to sell them, and therefore harder to encourage developers to make them.

I know Apple is building a web apps directory in a similar style to Built for Blackberry. Maybe they will integrate that directory into the App Store in the future, but they haven’t done so yet.

And even if they do, web apps cannot access iPhone native services, like the GPS or the camera or the contacts or OpenGL. Some of the most truly dazzling applications still require Objective-C. And so sharing more iPhone Objective-C is still a good thing.

So, as the iPhone application ecosystem continues to evolve, we hope that our little gift will encourage others to give a little more. And please stay tuned to our developers blog. We’ll be publishing a more about what we’ve learnt about the iPhone shortly.

Meet us at MacWorld

FreshBooks is going to MacWorld Expo 2009 in force. Look for us throughout the week, including at the Mac Meet and Mingle party the evening of Thursday, January 8.

If you’re at MacWorld and would like to meet to discuss iPhone development or online invoicing, please drop me a line at sunir splat freshbooks.com.


  • http://www.brianjones.ca Brian Jones

    I was planning on building my own Freshbooks iPhone app, but then you guys beat me to the punch and released your own app. :) Oh well, I may still do it.

    I guess your app makes a good reference app, but it’s hard for people to adapt the app if they want to use it for their own purpose. You would have to spend $100 and buy a dev membership. A lot if you just want your own customized Freshbook iPhone app. (not one you would sell to others)

    Brian.

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  • Weston Triemstra

    Nice! Thanks for releasing the code.

  • Caleb Clauset

    It’s really too bad that the FreshBooks iPhone app is so buggy that you have to refresh the data just about every time you launch the thing to keep it from crashing. I’m being a sour puss, but “open sourcing” it sounds more like you couldn’t be bothered to fix the bugs and now want someone else to fix them for you (for free).

  • http://www.freshbooks.com Fresh Sunir

    Hey Caleb, we have a set of fixes in the git repo that Dave Grijalva and our developer Mike Gauthier have been actively working on.

    However, we can’t sign the application so we can test it on actual phones. Our Apple ID has been corrupted. Rather than being owned by Mike Gauthier or Sunir Shah, it is owned by Mike Shah. Apple nor we can find a way to permanently resolve the issue.

    It’s very frustrating, and it is wasting a lot of time, but we’re working on it.

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