WWDC: A new world of possibilities

I’ve spent the last couple of days walking the halls of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, talking to developers about the announcements yesterday. One common theme emerged from those discussions: Possibilities.

I haven’t seen developers this excited about a WWDC in many years—probably since Apple first allowed native apps on iOS. There is a real sense of Apple turning a corner with all of the new tools they gave developers during the conference.

This isn’t just good news for developers—everyone will benefit from this type of excitement. The more developers believe in the platform, the more they continue to push the envelope of what can be done with Apple products—that ultimately means more, and better, apps for consumers. That’s just what every platform needs to thrive.

Most non-developers watching the keynote yesterday probably didn’t care much about Apple’s new Swift programming language, but developers sure took notice. Swift is part of the tools that are going to make app development more efficient. And, because Swift code is interoperable with Objective-C, developers can start using it right away.

One developer I spoke with said Swift has him considering the possibilities of taking his iOS app to the Mac. As a small shop, Swift takes away some of the headaches and resource drain on his company when considering such a big move. His plan is to use Swift for any new code, while utilizing common Objective-C code between the apps. When the Mac app is completed, he will systematically replace the remaining code with Swift.

Other developers told me that apps that were in the beginning phases of development will be done in Swift, while they reevaluate what to do with existing apps.

It’s hard to explain how monumental WWDC 2014 has been. Every developer here is excited about the possibilities for their existing apps and new ones they will build—ideas are flowing, but nobody wanted me to say what they were doing, so you’ll have to wait.

There are some great things coming out of WWDC this year.

  • Mother Hydra

    This is going to set the pace for the next 5 years and, in my opinion, pushes Apple way out ahead of their closest competitors. Swift is so forward-thinking I’ve seen a subset of programming folks actually decry it as “trendy” and “nothing groundbreaking”. When critics and analysts say this of Apple you can usually bet on the opposite.

    • John V.

      As a programming language, it is “trendy” and “nothing groundbreaking” as it reflects the zeitgeist of what is considered a best practice for a newly designed computer language these days.

      But Apple devs don’t need groundbreaking, they need efficient (both for devs and machines), safe and well-designed. And it hits those marks quite spectacularly.

      Apple developers have always looked at the Microsoft dev ecosystem with envy. Objective C does a lot of things right, but it has a lot of warts, and… well, it’s C.

      While C# is simply pleasure to develop in. Swift’s turning the tables, because now we get most of the important benefits of C#, without the heavy JIT/runtime overhead, and in a much cleaner, simpler language, designed from the get-go to have everything we’ll need (while C# has had to evolve to add closures and so on).

      • good to hear. im a veteran c# dev (my second employer was a .NET early release partner in ’99), havent gotten in OS X or iOS dev yet…intrigued by what im hearing…

    • matthewmaurice

      This is definitely “doubling down” on the vertically integrated ecosystem.

  • antk

    I want Swift to succeed . I really do. However, I can’t help but notice that at this tine it falls really short of the modern language Apple advertised it to be. After just a couple of hours with the language guide I noticed that it is missing (among others) access control modifiers and a proper error/exception handling mechanism. It really needs a lot of work to become the main language for targeting Apple platforms. The rest of the development tooling announced yesterday however is, indeed, awesome.

    • John V.

      There’s a particular reason Swift is released with a limited feature set for developer feedback.

      It’s up to the developers to tell Apple now what you want and what you don’t want in Swift.

      In a way it’s a very Apple thing to do. iPhone didn’t have copy-paste or custom apps, but… things change, right?

      As for error handling, check Swift’s multiple return values (tuples) combined with pattern matching. Many languages use this with great success to handle errors in an even more minimal way than throwing/catching exceptions.

    • John V.

      Hey, antk. I just made your day:


      Access control mechanisms will be added to Swift.

  • dreyfus2

    As great as Apple’s hardware is, it’s the OSs and app(lication)s that make it truly sticky. Providing such a ton of useful frameworks at the system level will ensure that OS X and iOS apps will continue to be ahead of the competition for a long time. Most of these things could be done by developers from scratch (and if you develop for Android or Windows Phone you often have to), but it would result in far less choice and even less quality and consistency.

    I expect some fabulous things once these OSs go live and the next generation of apps is coming in. Also can’t wait for Apple to show us the new hard- and software that will make use of these building blocks. And I have to admire them for presenting so much stuff without even giving us a clue what these things will be 🙂

  • Craig

    “I’ve spent the last couple of days walking the halls of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, talking to developers about the announcements yesterday.” – How do you spend days taking about something that just happened yesterday. File this one under “Or what I learned since breakfast.” Go have another Heineken.

  • satcomer

    You could say “The future is so bright I have to ware shades”. 🙂