⌘ June 18, 2021

Stuff I Love

WWDC 2021: Democratizing App Development

Code on a computer screen.
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

I can’t stop thinking about how Apple has further democratized app development with their introductions at WWDC this year. Here’s Dan Moren at Six Colors on how Xcode Cloud means Mac developers can do more with less:

Obviously, moving parts of this process to a cloud-based system can bring significant advantages. For one thing, you’re not strictly limited by the hardware on which you’re writing your code. While developers often favor getting the most powerful system to help build their apps faster, letting users take advantage of the cloud opens the door for those who may not be able to afford high-end systems.

Speaking of opening the door, another (potentially more significant) new avenue for creating apps is with Swift Playgrounds on iPad. You’ve always needed a Mac to publish an app to the App Store, but that’s no longer the case. This, I think, will be a big deal.

For one, the entry price for a development machine just dropped significantly. The least expensive Mac starts at $699. The iPad starts at $329! So droves of people will soon be able to write and publish apps for the world’s most lucrative platform on a device that costs less than half the price of a Mac mini.

Second, think of all the people who use the iPad as their primary computer and can now become developers on their preferred platform. Three groups immediately come to mind:

  • Children who grew up with iPads and can fly around iPadOS.
  • Older folks who are drawn to the simplicity of the iPad and might be intimidated to learn to navigate the Mac.
  • Students learning to code in Swift Playgrounds who can continue their education by building a complete app right there.
  • People who prefer the direct manipulation and focus brought by iPadOS.

Many people used to think the iPad was suitable only for content consumption, not creation. While there are sure to be many caveats and asterisks about publishing an app from Swift Playgrounds, I think we’re at the precipice of a new generation of creative app development from people who have just had their world expanded.


Though they didn’t get much time at last week’s keynote, Xcode Cloud and app development in Swift Playgrounds promise to bring more power to more people who create the digital tools we all use daily.

WWDC


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