WWDC 2015 Keynote recap

This year’s WWDC keynote brought no new hardware announcements. But with the announcement of new versions of OS X, iOS and watchOS, there was still lots of new stuff to cover.

El Capitan appears to be a sort of “Snow Yosemite,” bringing few new features an instead focusing on speed and stability. Beyond that I am excited for the new features in Mission Control – particularly the new split full screen view.

iOS 9 mostly got updates to Siri and the search engine. Which is fine but also to be expected in light of Google’s recent focus on Google Now. Interestingly Apple made a point of the fact that they want to protect the privacy of their users (a claim that is believable not because Apple is more of a trustworthy company than Google but because for now it is not in Apple’s business interests to share user data).

The long-winded on-stage announcement of Apple Music was received with much ridicule on Twitter. The way the announcement was handled is proof that Apple marketing is either becoming tone-deaf or seriously targeting other demographics than the typical 30-somethings developer (whether they succeeded is another question).

Awesome for developers was the announcement that Apple’s in-house programming language Swift will become open source later this year. This news deservedly earned the longest applause of the entire keynote. Even though the advantages of an open source language are not immediately apparent, I believe it is a sign that Apple really wants to be more open towards developers – current and upcoming. One of the most important news in this regard was not even mentioned in the keynote. Apparently it is now possible to deploy code to your personal iOS devices from Xcode for free, without a developer account. As it says on developer.apple.com:

Now everyone can get their app on their Apple device.

Xcode 7 and Swift now make it easier for everyone to build apps and run them directly on their Apple devices. Simply sign in with your Apple ID, and turn your idea into an app that you can touch on your iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch. Download Xcode 7 beta and try it yourself today. Program membership is not required.

For younger developers and people who just want to try hacking together an app for their own use this change is huge. I wonder how many people were put off from delving into Xcode because they couldn’t even deploy install their app on their own devices without forking over $99 for a dev license – I certainly was. I was always interested in building my own software, but was never committed enough to pay for a license. This could make me seriously re-investigate iOS development.

An interesting side effect of this change is that there seems to be nothing stopping anyone from deploying arbitrary open source projects to ones iPhone or iPad. This could become a way to distribute applications that fall outside of Apple’s guidelines for the App Store – such as emulators or apps that enable tethering. It remains to be seen if Apple is going to do something to stop people from doing that.