Did iOS Development Just Get a lot Simpler?

Apple commenced WWDC, their annual developer conference in San Francisco, with a two-hour keynote. The presentation featured several software updates and announcements that will impact developers. However, the crowd was most responsive to Apple’s new Swift programing language.

Swift can be used to develop Mac iOS and OS X applications in Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. The language uses a high-performance LLVM compiler and can be used alongside or instead of Objective-C. Benefits of using Swift are speed, simplified syntax and interactive playgrounds. Swift uses dynamic typing and has a syntax that is similar to Ruby, PHP and Scala. Xcode 6's deep support of Swift means that developers will benefit from live rendering and Playgrounds to instantly see their code in action. Ultimately, the barrier for iOS and OS X development has been lowered.

The language is currently proprietary and unavailable to the general public until the fall, but iOS Developer members have access to the beta version. Interested parties can also peruse the free, 500-page The Swift Programming Language iBook.

In addition to the resources that Apple has provided, Thinkful, an on-line learning platform, launched a landing page for “The world’s first Swift course” on Monday night. Darrell Silver, Co-Founder and CEO of Thinkful, collaborates with a roster of mentors to assist students through the development education process.

“We have a subset of mentors that are really interested in curriculum development overall and as soon as [Swift] was announced, they were asking if they could do it and two hours later it was launched,” Silver said.

The team is waiting until July to host the class so that they have time to iterate on the course, which Silver said has already received a strong response.

“Mobile development has a huge appeal, but because Objective-C has such a high barrier to entry, it’s not something we recommend for beginner students,” Silver said. “Now, with the accessibility of Swift in conjunction with the development environment that Apple is releasing simultaneously, we feel that Apple took an approach that was very beginner friendly and learner friendly”

The course costs $500, which includes an iOS Developer membership. Students can go at their own pace, but the self-directed syllabus usually takes three months to complete. At the end of the course, Silver promises that students will have a finished App, ready to submit to the App Store.

Online education platforms CodeSchool and TreeHouse have released statements on the Swift programming language, stating that they are evaluating the language but are not offering courses at this time.

The hype regarding Swift has only increased since Monday’s announcement and although there are resources trickling into the community, only time will tell if there will be a demand for Swift developers in five years, and if so, a need for Objective-C developers too.