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WWDC 2014: The developers take the stage

Dave Wiskus | June 10, 2014
On the face of it, the keynote at WWDC 2014 was a developer's dream: Extensions, TestFlight, third-party keyboards, a framework for building cloud-based apps, a compelling successor to Objective-C, and more. But what did this avalanche of empowerment mean to developers, and how will it impact the future of Mac and iOS apps?

Apple knows that the tools developers use to make apps directly impact the quality of the apps. This year, the tools were showcased as if to impress not only app makers, but also the people watching at home. It's perhaps too comfortable to think of developer tools the same way we think of a mechanic's tools: functionally impressive, but esoteric.

The reality is that our industry has matured in an unexpected way, and the people who use our products are passionate about them. Apps are a hit. And TestFlight, for example, is a way of bringing more non-devs in on the software-making process; it's a behind-the-scenes look. One starts to think of software less as the product of a machine and more as a creative endeavor.

A new opportunity

This is no accident, and Apple is only too eager to embrace and further this trend. On the Yosemite preview page, the following:

"We've created new tools — even a new programming language — for app developers to build the next generation of apps and games. And that will make the Mac experience even richer for you."

This year, Apple has provided developers with a series of things we get to do, rather than things we need to do. Unlike last year's iOS 7 visual refresh, which brought with it the need to rethink an existing set of problems, Yosemite and iOS 8 offer a gateway to digitally authentic sophistication.

For example: from the earliest days of iOS, one of the biggest differences between desktop and mobile was the obfuscation of the filesystem. Originally this was to keep things conceptually simple and move past the dated metaphors of software past. In iOS 8, files make a return. Not to confuse or complicate, but to empower. Apple stripped down the experience to bare metal and is building back up fast.

Those of us who make software tend to see our industry through the lens of what came before us: a scrappy group of nerds banded together to start software companies and change the world. It's easy to continue to cast ourselves as the underdogs, but the truth is that we won. Technology is cool now. People are buying computing devices and software at a rate unmatched in history. All kinds of people like this stuff, and now Apple is empowering and encouraging us to make software for all kinds of people.


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