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Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2014

Wow. What a week. Another WWDC has come and gone, and I’m still a bit too gobsmacked to process exactly what just happened. For the first time in quite a while, the focus was entirely on the developer. There were so many new tools, APIs, and features introduced; I’m having a hard time figuring out where to focus my attention. As a user of Apple products, I can’t wait to install the new software when it’s released later this year. Being able to Air-Drop between my Mac and iOS devices and perform context switching between them with Handoff are two features I’ll get tons of use from. But, as a developer I’m scrambling to watch and re-watch the session videos, read documentation, and try out the new tools to finally wrap my head around all the information that was presented. 

Good News for Indies 

More than anyone, I believe the announcements coming out of WWDC will benefit independent developers. For a small group, developing the product itself, let alone the web component to manage data, can be quite time consuming. The introduction of CloudKit should give budding development shops a big leg up by lessening the need to build out a full-stack backend to support sync and data sharing in the cloud. Updates to the App Store bring a nice toolbox of features for developers trying to build a business around their apps. Enhanced metrics and tracking for App Store sales help developers gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. You can also submit demo videos in addition to the existing screen shots to give users a taste of how much bang they’ll be getting for their bucks. Rolling the TestFlight app cloud deployment service into iTunes will also make it easier to recruit beta testers and distribute beta software. And, the old Ad Hoc distribution restrictions used for beta testing in the past — 99 registered devices per developer account per year — have changed to 1000 beta tester accounts with unlimited devices allowing developers to get the feedback they need from larger sample groups. All of this means more time for developers to focus on building the delight into their apps. 

What’s New for the Enterprise? 

A few items of note for enterprise include the ability to manage eBooks through your Mobile Device Management (MDM) system. For corporate learning and development groups, the combination of iBooks Author and the iBooks app can provide a powerful learning combo for enriched corporate training. Other MDM enhancements include invoking kiosk mode on a managed device from a remote console and preventing users from using the Settings app to manually wipe their device data. Single Sign-On (introduced in iOS 7) has been upgraded to allow identity certificates, which allow IT to update expired certificates without requiring users to enter their usernames and passwords. And, for all the Exchange users out there, you will finally be able to set your out-of-office message from your iOS device. You will also be able to set custom intervals and repeating event schedules, and view scheduling conflicts right from within the Calendar app. 

A Subtle Request 

Last year, Apple completely revamped iOS leaving no pixel untouched. This year, the focus was on OS X. For starters, the UI has been updated to preserve visual continuity with iOS 7. Under the hood however, huge strides were taken to make OS X development more approachable. It’s no secret that the majority of the developers attending WWDC these days are primarily iOS-focused. In fact, presenters often joked about the number of actual Mac developers in attendance by asking for a show of hands during session presentations. 

Apple appears to be trying to remedy that by restructuring a lot of the architecture behind Mac App development to work similarly to the way we set up apps in iOS. Updates bring more parity between existing APIs on both platforms and the new continuity APIs are beginning to provide the right mix of tools to allow developers to carry the user experience seamlessly across devices. Bottom line is, Apple is quietly asking developers to remember the Mac as they build the next Earth-shattering user experience on iOS. I anticipate this message to become stronger in the next few years. 

In closing I’ve only touched on a few of the announcements coming out of WWDC…there were far too many to discuss in a single post. I’ve not even touched on the more technical features like Metal, the enhanced debugging and live preview features in Xcode, or the new programming language, Swift. At the end of the day, it was a conference for developers, so if you watched the keynote and walked away feeling it was a little lackluster, just wait until the new OS drops and updated apps start shipping. The developers will knock your socks off and you’ll see that it was all worth it — and be glad you got a chance to take a peek behind the curtain.

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