Tuesday June 14, 2011

Cloudy With a Chance of ReadMore

If this post is too technical, forgive me. I just got back from WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference, and want to discuss the future of ReadMore. To do that, I’ll have get down into some details.

If you haven’t heard, Apple is rolling out iCloud, an ambitious project to provide a simple and seamless way to share data between all your iOS devices. Of course, I went there hoping to find out how to take advantage of this for my client projects and for ReadMore. What Apple revealed is much better than I expected.

Ever since I built ReadMore, I wanted to make it universal and run natively on the iPad. But, to make that happen I’ve needed ways to sync the reading history between devices. The vast majority of people who’ve contacted me about a universal version specifically request this syncing.

It’s possible to build sync tools on your own. If you’ve used Things, OmniFocus or 1Password, you’ve already benefitted from their syncing mechanisms. In some cases, the devices have to be on the same local WiFi network. In others, the app developer built a central syncing server and pays to support sync over the internet wherever your devices are. In some cases, they work out a mechanism using a Dropbox account if you have one.

I bring all this up to point out that syncing is hard, both for development and for support. Navel Labs is a one-man show and building a sync server or conflict resolution mechanism is a lot more work than I’ve been able to focus on. As I looked forward to WWDC, I’ve secretly hoped Apple would solve this problem for me, the developer, and the rest of us, the customers.

They did.

Without divulging too much (and thus violating my NDA), let me just say that Apple exceeded all my expectations. They’re building an elegant solution that I can tap in to. Since I’ve been using Apple’s data storage technologies all along, I’ll be able to plug in to what they are doing with modest adjustments, and it will “just work”. If you run ReadMore on your iPhone and (eventually) your iPad with the same Apple ID, your reading history will be shared between them on the fly. Apple solved the hard parts and handles all the maintenance and uptime for the service.

But, in order to use this, it looks like I will have to abandon support for iOS 4. Like many other developers I don’t have the resources to continue to do testing for new features on both iOS 4 and 5 devices. I have a list of features I want to get built before I make this transition (history stats, better color picking, and a few more), so users who stay on iOS 4 will have some goodies coming there way. But when it’s time to release the iPad version I plan to only support iOS 5.

As usual, the app will continue to run as-is on older iOS versions. And when you are ready to upgrade to iOS 5, ReadMore will update right along with you.

I plan to have this universal iPad and iCloud syncing support some time this fall. It won’t be at the same time iOS 5 comes out since I’ll have some more testing and development to do, but this is the plan at this point. Thanks so much for your support and patience. I’ve been so encouraged to hear how you all use this app. Keep reading!