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What’s new in the app development world: Apple introduces Swift.
If you are like me and many others waiting impatiently for next week’s announcement of the iPhone 6, you might also be interested in one of Steve Jobs’ late legacy projects that continues the trend of developing new technologies that seamlessly integrate in our human lives — Swift — Apple’s new “fun and interactive” programming language for apps. The language will be released this fall along with Mac’s Operating System Yosemite and, of course, iPhone’s iOS 8.
Swift has been developed in order to make app creation “more approachable and fun” and will “appeal to the next generation of programmers” and “redefine how computer science is taught”, according to Chris Lattner, head of developer tools at Apple, who’s been working on Swift since 2010 when Steve Jobs was still in charge.
With such high expectations for the new programming language, it’s worth mentioning the current status of app development. One of the biggest obstacles for people eager to get into app development for iOS is the complexity of Objective-C, the primary language used to write software for OS X and iOS. Objective-C was created in the 1980s and used in the company Steve Jobs created when he left Apple called NeXT Computer. The company was purchased by Apple in 1996 and that’s when Jobs introduced the language to Apple.
Swift is the successor to this old language, and Apple has greatly improved its syntax so that developers can spend more time adding new features to their apps instead of debugging them or looking for missing semicolons — which means it’ll be faster to launch the app.
The strategy behind Swift is very “Apple”: the goal is to attract more developers to its ecosystem, not to mention knock-out other major players: Oracle’s Java and Microsoft’s C# and C++. Right now Android uses Java, one the most popular languages, which is owned by Oracle. Apple doesn’t want to give away any control to Oracle — Swift offers a way to develop apps with quick release and great testing features using Apple’s developer’s tools and extensive documentation. It also promises to be easier to learn and use (even for beginners) compared with the existing Apple language and its competitors.
Because of the popularity of Apple’s products; its tight integration of hardware, software and operating system; and its emerging markets all over the world, Swift is a game changer for developers and users alike.
If you dream of becoming a billionaire by creating the next Snapchat or Instagram, Apple is making it easier for you. But you may be simply wondering what it means for your iPhone, your iPad, or perhaps your (future) iWatch? Because Swift was designed to work only within Apple’s ecosystem, new features will emerge with enhanced communication between apps and the hardware they’re operating on, for example, an app’s ability to access the camera.
Swift was developed with ease of use in mind and encouraging experimentation. As as result we can expect more developers to join the app development party, meaning potentially faster and cheaper apps, but maybe not always better. While we can expect more innovation in the future – even beyond the current trend in health apps (think: apps in your watch, car, reading glasses, shoes, fridge, iron, or even your coffee mug) – on a practical everyday level, an understanding of why a business needs an app, beyond having a responsive site, and the functionality needed will still be critical to connecting with your clients and building your business.
With the invention of the simple app seven years ago, the phone is now more than just a telephone, and your interaction with the world will never be the same again. We now live in world of complex apps, and this is just the beginning.
Bottom line: As an Ironistic developer, my main focus for website projects is on making sites work seamlessly across all devices, but with an ever expanding world of apps opening up, a focused digital strategy that addresses desktop, laptops and mobile sites, as well as differentiated and complementary apps, is critical.
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