At Apple's 2014 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) the tech giant announced a multitude of new and updated features that will be of specific interest to developers.
A NEW PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE!
One of, if not the most, important announcement from the conference was the creation of a new iOS and OS X specific programming language called Swift. The new language, which some believe will eventually take the place of Objective-C, was designed to work in conjunction with both C and Objective-C programming languages. This is a huge benefit to developers who are currently programming something using either language because instead of replacing code they have already written they can just weave in Swift.
An ebook outlining the details of Swift called "The Swift Programming Language" can be downloaded for free on iTunes and the iBooks store.
During the conference Apple has announced a combination of upgrades and new features that are all labeled as Kits.
If any of you have watched the Disney Channel movie Smart House either with your kids or on your own this next Kit is right up that alley. With their HomeKit framework Apple aims to make a splash in the Smart Home market. A framework, for those who are unclear on the meaning, is essentially a support structure that is in place to guide the developer through the creation process. (For more information on frameworks check out previous articles by Website Magazine on Front-End and Back-End frameworks.) Home Kit will support apps from developers that discover and configure devices that are within the users home to controlled by their iPhone or iPad. An added bonus of this feature for users is that once they have configured them to their iPhone or iPad, they can then control them through Siri, Apples personal assistant.
Another significant release for developers is called CloudKit, now included as part of Apple's popular iCloud service. This framework will help manage the transer of data to and from the existing Cloud service offered by Apple. The big draw of Cloudkit is that it lets developers enables use of cloud components in apps more easily. Such features include iCloud authentification, database storage as well as notifications. While the free storage on CloudKit is impressive there are limits. So far there is no word on what the penalty is if the limits are exceeded.
Apple also announced the release of two Kits geared toward game developers, SceneKit and SpriteKit. Scene Kit is a 3-D graphic framework from Apple that uses a physics engine (a piece of software that simulates real-life truths like gravity and wind) to create animated scenes and effects in 3-D. Integrated within Scenekit is SpriteKit that endows developers with further animation capabilities including a new scene editor within Xcode. Xcode is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) created by Apple containing tools to develop apps for Mac and iOS devices.
Other noteworthy upgrades within iOS 8 are several updates to the app store which include an app preview feature which shows users a video of the main features of said app as well as an app bundle option which allows developers to sell a combination of apps at one price. Apple also announced that the total number of new APIs added in the new iOS is near 4,000, a significant increase from the 1,500 released with iOS 7. An API, or Application Programming Interface for those who do not know, is a set of protocols, routines and tools for creating software applications according to Webopedia. Another way to look at is that they are the construction materials used by the developer who, keeping with this line of thought, is the construction worker putting the materials together to create the software application, or finished structure.
Apple also announced a feature called Handoff which enables a user to start an activity on an iOS 8 or Mac OS X Yosemite device and continue it on another Apple device. Additionally, Apple announced another gameing framework called Metal which is heftier than both SceneKit and SpriteKit. Metal is meant to help developers who are designing more intricate and complex games.