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Blog: Developing on an iPad?

Over on Quora someone asked me,

Will Apple ever make software development viable on iPad OS? I’m talking about development without the need for remote desktop applications.

I felt that I shouldn’t let Quora have the only copy of this long answer, so here it is preserved for your posterior, or something like that:


My crystal ball says… kinda-sorta.

I don’t think it will be much problem to support some relatively simple IDE on an iPad.  There is already some degree of access to the underlying filesystem, and all the keystroke modifiers we take for granted on “real computers” can be had by hooking up a Bluetooth keyboard.

The programs thus created probably won’t be runnable as normal iOS apps, at least quite yet, let alone released to the Apple Store, because it’s going to be quite a while before that gross pig XCode is either slimmed down enough to fit reasonably on mobile devices, or easily bypassable for such purposes.  Instead, there would most likely be an interpreter, probably bundled inside the IDE, much like Smalltalk.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Smalltalk is exactly the community that does this.

The next question is whether it’s worth anybody’s time to create such a program.  I doubt Apple will do it, but someone probably will, I’m guessing by 2030, either for educational purposes or Just Because They Can — and that sounds like exactly the right motivation for Smalltalk fans.