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Apple Watch: Pulling a fast one

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The Swift 'interactive playground' from Apple's Swift developer page. Photo / Apple Inc
The Swift 'interactive playground' from Apple's Swift developer page. Photo / Apple Inc

Apple surprised or disappointed those awaiting new product announcements at WWDC this year. For some, Apple achieved both - surprise and disappointment. For most attendees, it was delight more than anything negative. For WWDC was all about software this year: iOS, OS and apps. Developers were not only given new SDKs and APIs to make their development work easier (these are Software Development Kits, and modules that allow bits of code to link up with other bits of code to do more things), but Apple also announced and released a whole new programming language to go with it all: Swift.

Swift has been secretly in development at Apple for four years - it certainly surprised most developers at WWDC, and there were more than 5000 there. The new programming language is for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. Writing code is interactive in Swift, and its syntax is more concise than Objective-C, yet it's more expressive, and Swift-written apps are supposed to run faster. "Swift is ready for your next iOS and OS X project - or for addition into your current app - because Swift code works side-by-side with Objective-C", to quote Apple.

What do developers think of Swift? The conundrum is whether to add Swift code into existing Objective-C projects, or to rewrite those (and previous) projects completely in Swift.

Swift provides new syntax and syntactics not seen before from Apple. It's a more modern language without any of the legacy baggage of the C language - that's been a staple of programming since the 1970s. Tech Republic seems impressed, anyway.

I'm not equipped to write definitively on the new programming language. I'm no developer. But I am interested in what NZ developers think. You might, instead, check out articles like this one over at ZDNet.

The verdict seems to be that Apple was standing strong on the WWDC stage, while looking relaxed and easy going. As former Apple engineer Matt Drance puts it, Apple was "coming from a place of confidence rather than concession."

Drance thinks Apple has decided moving iOS forward is a matter for developers as much as it is Apple's. Apple has more money and is hiring more engineers than ever, so Drance thinks Apple is more suited to shut the doors and go it alone (which is what Apple's normally charged with), "but that's not what's happening." Drance's picture of Apple's new era is one of increased openness coupled to increased confidence; "an attitude that managed to depart from the worst of the past while staying true to the best."

Us Apple fans can only hope he's right. But the Worldwide Developers Conference is for developers, after all, and Apple seemed simply not willing to release hardware that's not yet deemed market-ready.

Daring Fireball's John Gruber (I interviewed him a few years ago when he was at Webstock in Wellington) published a post detailing the myriad of ways in which Apple, under the direction of Tim Cook, is thriving in ways probably impossible with Steve Jobs at the helm. This is all part of that 'new era' I mentioned a couple of weeks back.

Apple had 21,600 full-time employees in 2007 when the iPhone first emerged - not Apple employs 80,300 - almost four times as many. Just a few years ago, Apple simply didn't have the engineering manpower to roll out a revolutionary new mobile OS while simultaneously finishing a monster OS X release (10.10 'Yosemite'). Now it has - that's partly why Apple is building that massive new 'spaceship campus' in Cupertino, although many of the new employees aren't engineers but in retail. But it all means Apple can employ top engineers and top everything else.

As TUAW puts it, "Apple's success is what enables it to convince people like Paul Deneve and Angela Ahrendts to leave their positions as CEOs and join the Apple team."

On retail, new Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts (formerly of Burberry) promises new Apple stores in new places. Hey Angela, you can't get much newer than New Zealand ...

Former Burberry CEO Ahrendts started work at Apple on May 1st, and has apparently informed key staff she will be shaking up the Apple Retail executive ranks while introducing a new organisational restructuring. This should alter how Apple Stores are managed, based on sales volumes to heighten customer satisfaction - it should create even more tailored experiences to individual stores while adding the kind of simplicity Apple boasts in product design.

Please remember, we don't have any Apple Stores in New Zealand. If you thought you dealt with an Apple Store here, you are wrong. We have, instead, some excellent dedicated Apple Resellers like Ubertec and iStore, and we have some chains with Apple reseller licences, but we do not have (and never have had) Apple-owned Apple Stores.

Anyway, if you'd rather wade through the negativity thrown at Apple for not releasing hardware at this year's WWDC, I invite you to look over the Macalope's page, which links to all the negative (and sometimes idiotic) commentary the event provoked, since "If you don't think the WWDC announcements were big, then you don't know anything about software development. If you think Apple only announces big things at WWDC, then you don't know anything about Apple."

Me? I'm happy. But I must admit I'm also waiting eagerly for that hardware.

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