When iTunes Connect returned after its Christmas break, developers noticed that things had changed quite a bit on the App Store approval front. Applications that had formerly taken ten to fourteen days to work through review were now getting processed in a couple of days or less. The upshot? Happier developers, better bug releases for users, and a healthier App Store ecosystem.
There's another consequence of the new, speedier approvals: the tablet. With the device due to ship March/April (late Q1, early Q2), and no announced 4.0 SDK, developers were left wondering how they'd have the time to bring their software up to date. Under the old review process even a single procedural rejection, which are quite common for small GUI details, would have exhausted nearly all of February in non-productive "wait mode".
With the enhanced review system in place, it's likely that developers will be able to spend those extra weeks refactoring their software, allowing it to ship in a timely fashion once the actual device appears on-scene. Apple is expected to push their SDK to developers within two weeks of their late January product announcement, probably by 15 February. Assuming a 2 April product launch, that leaves nearly six weeks to update and test software.
Not that developers are waiting. Many devs are already working on resolution independent versions of their applications. They are tasking their designers to re-imagine screens, to test hand-held cardboard prototypes, and otherwise start the process of scaling their products to new dimensions.
It should be noted that some of the App Store heavyweights have suddenly become quite tight-lipped in recent days, refusing to talk in any specifics about how their upgrade process is proceeding. The rest of us will have to get by on guess work, at least until the product announcement at the end of this month.
Without specific leaks regarding hardware changes (for example, will there really be a front facing video camera? and if so, will expanded Image Picker/Media Player classes support access?), it's hard to pin down exactly what new features can be leveraged in third party software. But it's a fairly safe bet that nearly all features available on the current iPod touch line will be in play on the new tablet. And that alone is enough to hedge some safe business bets about pushing forward with large screen development.
It's still too early for most of us to start playing -- those tight-lipped folk have a bit of the wild "Apple will kill me if I speak" look around their eyes -- but it's not too early to begin planning and working. Even without specifics, there are ways to move forward on the development front. Carpe diem. There's not much time left before the yet-unannounced tablet ships.