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WWDC 2015: Extracting the Apple juice

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2015) was first held in 1983 and has been an annual event for the last 22 years. The conference has grown from 2,000 attendees to a capped-out 5,200. Since 2002, the conference has been Apple’s preferred launch pad for major developments and products. During WWDCs Apple has announced the Mac Pro, iPhone, Power Mac G5 and a whole host of software. If you’re an Apple fan, WWDC is your World Cup!

This year’s WWDC took place on June 8th-12th in San Francisco and featured over 100 technical sessions, hands-on labs and the Apple Design Awards. As expected, Apple showcased updates to both its iOS and OSX operating systems, as well as Apple Pay and Apple Music.

iOS 9 (the iPhone and iPad operating system) will be a leap forward in intelligence and performance compared to iOS 8, and interaction with Siri will be more advanced. Rather than the major design change in iOS 7, the movement to iOS 9 is mostly behind the scenes, improving efficiency, speed and actually taking up less room in the internal memory, which will be a relief for 16MB iPhone owners.

The OSX 10.11 update is code-named El Capitan and apart from the daft name, it will roll out across the Mac fleet of computers, both laptop and desktop. It won’t be released until Autumn, but users can test out the beta version from the Apple official website.

Apple Pay will have a new reader and iOS9 a more stable interface with Apple Pay. Soon, Apple Pay will be accepted at more than one million locations, including the London Tube.

Apple also introduced Apple Music, a new music service that will be free for the first three months, then £9.99 a month. Quite how it is going to compare with Spotify and other streaming services is unclear as yet. However, it’s definitely being positioned more towards the smaller bands and not the millionaire artists like Tidal!

But the big news for developers is that Apple intends to open source Swift, its new programming language. This announcement yielded by far the greatest applause of the day. What an open source Swift means for developers is significant, allowing them to broaden their products’ reach beyond Apple products to its competitors. It opens the door to porting Apple language to Microsoft, Windows, and even a Linux compiler. It could even, at least in theory, be used in creating Google and Android apps. This would make it simple to deploy apps simultaneously for iOS and other operating systems. This heralds an important move that has been coming for a while: platform compatibility. The fight between Apple and Android seems to be over: and instead they are now accepting each others’ presence and instead supplying their own apps to others and competing in other ways. It’s a pivotal moment in convergence.

Apple is playing it slightly differently, saying that Swift will have a higher level of support from developers than any other programming language, far surpassing either Java or Objective-C. The senior Vice President for software engineering, Craig Federighi told the conference that: “We think Swift is the next big programming language, the one that we’ll all be doing application and system programming on for 20 years to come.”

By giving the world Swift, Apple is giving a huge gift to developers. The open source language will improve usability and adoption of Apple software, perhaps even in the education community as it will allow them to use Swift without cost. In essence, Swift makes developing Apple products more accessible and more attractive.

Quite how much that means to you, our clients, is a question yet to be answered. What we do know is that Webheads will as usual be operating on the cutting edge of design and development, so long as it makes sense! Watch this space.

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