Thoughts on WWDC 2015

In my mind, these are biggest developer-facing announcements to come out of WWDC 2015:

  • iPad Multitasking
  • UI Testing and Code Coverage in Xcode 7
  • Swift 2
  • Swift as an Open-Source language
  • App Thinning
  • Watch OS 2.0 with on-device apps
  • CloudKit Web Services
  • Free iOS provisioning
Note that these aren’t changes in the SDK itself. Developers don’t have to write a lot of code to get these benefits. iPad multitasking already works if you followed the adaptivity guidance for iOS 8 from last year; support is as simple as recompiling. UI Testing works on your existing apps. On-watch WatchKit extensions use the same SDK that on-phone extensions used (albeit with additional capabilities exposed). You don’t need to make any changes to your CloudKit usage in order to enable web services. All these features come essentially free for the developer.

There are, of course, some nice SDK changes as well. UIStackView and NSCollectionView are very welcome additions to their respective platforms, but even these aren’t really new; they’re just parity features between the platforms. The various new extension points are nice, and the new gaming frameworks are probably a big deal for game developers. But as I see it, WWDC doesn’t fundamentally change the kinds of apps I can write.
The focus this year isn’t on enabling new kinds of apps, but rather on improving the experience of the apps we can already build. App testing, delivery, performance, and consumption are all improved across the board, with little effort needed from developers. iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan offer significant improvements to the user experience, and Xcode 7 improves the developer experience, but the improvements are largely outside the SDK. The big news from WWDC 2015 isn’t about new frameworks, classes, and methods—it’s about an improved experience for users and developers.

Caveat: If you’re a game developer, GameplayKit, ReplayKit, and the expanded Metal announcements may have made this a big year for you. I’m not a game developer, so they don’t really affect me from a development standpoint. But I acknowledge that they definitely look cool, and are definitely part of the SDK.

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