Over the past half-year I have been developing software for the iPhone (and recently iPad). Although I feel that Cocoa is excellent overall, a few rough edges prevent it from being a truly great experience:
Objective-C is the language of choice for most Cocoa developers (Cocoa can be accessed through bridges by Ruby, Python and a handful of other tools, however the vast majority of Cocoa programmers use Objective-C). It provides a thin layer on-top of the C program language, adding support for dynamic typing and messaging.
Objective-C’s very fast execution speeds do not compensate for the amount of code required to perform trivial tasks (especially compared with Ruby or Python). Issues such as memory management and duplicate feature sets (NSString and string, NSArray and , etc.) leave developers wanting something better.
Interface builder is one of the best GUI designers available. That said, the iPhone and iPad controls are not nearly as verbose as the Mac desktop application controls. The lack of support for grids, checkboxes, color pickers, and even good looking buttons does not make any sense. It is obvious that Apple had to exclude tools that will not work on the mobile platform, but their over-zealous axing of features ultimately ended up increasing the workload for developers.
Although Cocoa offers great customization of controls, developers must revert to code to get certain core features working. A great example is creating form elements within a table (something done in thousands of applications, including the ‘Settings’ app). Developers will need to setup delegates, protocols, and data-structures for something that should be drag-and-drop. For static forms, this is wasteful and time consuming.
Having recently spent some time developing in Ruby on Rails, I feel confident stating that the Cocoa ecosystem is terrible. Although a few great libraries and extensions exist the non-existence of a package manager means that third-party software is few and far between.
Installation of almost anything introduces dependency headaches and is completely non-standard. A look through the 10-20 step guides required for any framework will make some cringe and others cry.
Given Apple’s reputation, it is a wonder better options are not available for Mac and iOS development. The benefits of releasing a 25 year old language on brand new mobile devices without not upgrading existing SDK’s with new languages (Microsoft has gone through at least four) are hard to find. Hopefully Apple attempts to improve both the languages and the frameworks in the future.