WWDC 2014 – Apple Announces Swift Programming Language, 4K+ APIs

Apple’s WWDC 2014 keynote ended with a slew of announcements that Apple is calling their biggest developer release ever, and it certainly lives up to the description.

App Development

Leading the way is Apple’s Swift, a programming language that dropped jaws all across the internet as they demoed it live on stage. Swift looks to be as easy to code in as a scripting language, with all of the power and flexibility of lower-level languages like C or Objective C.

Next is the revelation that they’re introducing 4,000+ new APIs. You developers are going to have a LOT of interesting reading to do. (I hope it’s interesting, anyway, because 4,000 APIs is a LOT.)

One of the new APIs of particular interest to game developers is Metal, a 3D API they hope will replace OpenGL. They showed off some jaw-dropping demos of Metal and of their 2D Sprite Kit that make the future of iOS gaming look bright indeed.

On the down side, both Swift and Metal have the potential to introduce more roadblocks into the cross-platform development work flow of app developers. This possibility isn’t really a shock, since Apple has a long history of anti-cross-platform sentiment behind them, but it is a bit disappointing given how many other announcements point to a more open Apple future.

“With more than 800 million iOS devices sold worldwide, the opportunity for developers is huge,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “This is the biggest iOS release since the launch of the App Store. The iOS 8 SDK delivers more than 4,000 new APIs including amazing new frameworks, greater extensibility and a revolutionary new programming language.”

They’ve engineered the app system to allow apps to communicate in a way they claim is secure (as with all security matters, the truth will be seen in time of course) with one another, so that apps can share data and features. This includes third party API access for Touch ID, and apps can share notification information with the notification system.

HealthKit

iOS has long been a favorite platform for health-conscious apps and devices like Fitbit and Nike+ devices, and now it’s becoming a bit more friendly with HealthKit. HealthKit is a set of APIs and platforms that will allow you to centralize data from your devices and deliver them to doctors via specialized apps such as the Mayo Clinic app.

“We believe Apple’s HealthKit will revolutionize how the health industry interacts with people,” said John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic president and CEO. “We are proud to be at the forefront of this innovative technology with the Mayo Clinic app.”

HomeKit

The HomeKit announcement looks to be taking a shot at the home automation space, providing platforms and connectivity for the various home automation devices available in the Internet of Things. You’ll be able to control and integrate your Philips Hue lights with your door locks, garage door and internet coffee pot through a common protocol, all tied in with Siri.

“We are excited to be part of the next step in making home automation a reality, in a safe and integrated way,” said Eric Rondolat, CEO, Philips Lighting. “HomeKit will allow us to further enhance the Philips Hue lighting experience by making it simpler to securely pair devices throughout the house and control them using Siri.”

Third Party Keyboards

Arguably the most exciting part of the whole keynote was the revelation that at long last, it will become possible to use alternative keyboards in iOS! This is a feature that has been sorely missed on the platform. I don’t know about you, but the promise of being able to swipe around the keyboard to type instead of having to painstakingly pick my way through the default iOS keyboard has done wonders for my enthusiasm for iOS8. It makes me think for the first time that the iPad could become a viable writing tool for me.

Did you check out the keynote online? What’re your thoughts? Let us know in the forums, in the comments, or on social media!

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