Apple gave its watchers a lot to chew on Monday, the first day of its Worldwide Developers Conference: iOS 8, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, a new platform for controlling smart homes, a new mobile programming language, and a mobile app that collects health data in one place, among other WWDC announcements.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that one of the biggest announcements was aimed at consumers, even though the audience for this event is developers. He pointed specifically at the new ability to "start work on one Apple device and pick it up and [continue working] on another device."
This capability, which he said does not exist on another platform, takes one more step toward further integration of Apple's two platforms, computers and mobile devices. He also pointed out that Yosemite, the newest iteration of Apple's computer OS, is now "visually more similar to iOS than before."
Swift Programming Language
Another big development, which Greengart said was "a bit under the hood," is the changing way that Apple is viewing iOS, which used to be "very locked down." Now, he said, the company is expanding the file system, making it into a cloud file system, "allowing you to plug in your own cloud file system," allowing developers to replace the soft keys on the virtual keyboard with your own, and other changes that indicate Apple is opening up iOS to some degree.
He said a third major development, also a kind of opening up, is the "ability of mobile apps to share data with each other," as contrasted with the earlier silo approach to app data.
"Apple's looking at apps as a competitive differentiator," Greengart said, and these new capabilities could give developers more room to develop new kinds of capabilities. The company, he pointed out, "is hoping better apps will enable them to maintain the price premium that Apple commands."
To help with the development of stand-out apps, Apple also announced a new programming language, called Swift.
Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC, said most of the more-popular programming languages "have had multi-vendor support," like Cobol, Fortran, C and Java."
He pointed out that Objective-C, which has been used for Apple's mobile platform, "is outdated and complex for new developers, but Apple has worked hard to make great tools for developers and the pull of the platform has been compelling." He predicted that Swift "has a good chance of being dominant in five years," and noted that the language "was designed for ease of learning." He also said "it produces fast code, and Apple will integrate it deeply with its tools."
Two potentially big developments unveiled Monday leave a number of questions unanswered. There's HomeKit, a new application for controlling smart homes, and HealthKit, a mobile-oriented platform for organizing all health-related data. But how the two new offerings will operate in the real world, where the data comes from, if there is integration with existing smart home or electronic health record standards, what array of partnerships will help propel the new products -- most of those details are still to come.