The quickest way for app developers to make use of Apple's Swift language

Shane Schick


It was, by far, one of the best commentaries I saw shortly after Apple's World Wide Developer Conference keynote:

Maybe it's the kind of inside joke that will only makes sense to the mobile app market, but it also points to how Apple's introduction of a new programming language, Swift, will have a ripple effect on the developer community as a whole. 

At the top end (meaning enterprise apps), there is already speculation that Swift will prove easier for companies to get their tools onto iPhones. Most iOS apps are written in Objective C today, and attracting that kind of programming talent can be expensive. It is also, in many cases, the way indie developers pay the rent. Not long ago, a survey by IDC and Appcelerator showed more devs using enterprise app work as the means for financing their personal passion for consumer apps and mobile games. As much as it could speed the time it takes them to get those apps and games out, it could also potentially reduce the volume of contract work available to them. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Swift is also expected to open the doors to younger or less experienced developers to get their hands dirty with making apps. To most people that may seem like a good thing, but it could also mean flooding the App Store with yet more competition, and possibly mediocre apps that make consumers even more fickle about what they put on an iPhone. 

What consumers won't really care about, generally speaking, is Swift itself. Just as there was plenty of grumbling in the media about the lack of a major product launch at WWDC (which makes no sense, really, but whatever), Swift is the kind of behind-the-scenes innovation that will only make itself felt quietly, over time. Indie developers have ample opportunity right now to position themselves as the best group to both defend their turf in the enterprise and rise above the pack on the consumer side. 

For example, there are already hoards of enterprise apps written in Objective C that will need to be ported or transitioned to Swift over time. Some people are already testing Swift out to see how this will work. Developers could be dragged into this process or lead it. As for consumer apps and mobile games, indie developers should make sure they demonstrate that while Swift allows people to create apps more easily, it takes talent and creativity to create the best apps. Combined with other WWDC launches like Extensibility, indie developers could be the first to show how connecting services between apps makes for a richer mobile experience. 

Ultimately, Apple's new programming language raises a host of potentialities, and a lot of questions. There will no doubt be a whole ecosystem of educational resources and tools that spring up around it, but it's developers who can best answer many of those questions. The time to move on this is now. Swiftly.--Shane