My WWDC 2015 “Hey that’s cool!” list

The 2015 WWDC keynote included a lot of “meh”, but a few “hey that’s cool”s. Here is my “hey that’s cool” list.

1. Search API

Apple announced a new search API that iOS app developers can use to allow users to search within their application from.

We now have an API for search. So now when a user performs a search, we can find content behind the apps they have installed on the device, and pull those up in results. And when they tap, they’re deep linked directly into the application. We even provide a convenient back link so they can get right back to their search results. We think these kinds of intelligence features really make a huge difference in your experience in iOS.

Android has provided a similar API for a while now, so this feature is really just playing a little catch-up. But what this means for Codename One is that it will now be possible to design a cross-platform API for this.

2. Swift Open Source

When Swift was first announced (and not open sourced), many pundits were cynical of Apple’s motives – particularly suspecting that Apple was looking to create yet another “lock-in” mechanism for developers. While this is still probably true, their decision to open source it at least some good faith. Their announcement from the Swift blog

Here is what we can tell you so far: 1. Swift source code will be released under an OSI-approved permissive license. 2. Contributions from the community will be accepted — and encouraged. 3. At launch we intend to contribute ports for OS X, iOS, and Linux. 4. Source code will include the Swift compiler and standard library.

We think it would be amazing for Swift to be on all your favorite platforms.

With Swift’s apparent success, one must wonder how long Objective-C will remain “supported”. Apple historically has had no qualms about pulling the rug out from developers when they want to make a shift, and Objective-C certainly is showing its age – so don’t be surprised if, some time in the next couple of years – we get a new WWDC bombshell that Objective-C is being scrapped.

Codename One currently compiles everything down to plain old C code so we would be largely unaffected by such a change – although there would be some native portions that use Objective-C that would need updating. Luckily, if you’re a Codename One user, you don’t need to concern yourself with these details because you are working in Java.

3. iPad Split Screen

This is the coolest advance of them all. Being able to have two apps open at once makes the iPad much more functional – one step closer to replacing the laptop for a lot of users. As a power user, I have often felt that the iPad is not living up to its potential as a computing device – and usually ends up working like just a large iPhone. Small advances like split screen open the doors for app developers to make innovative apps that empower the user to do things that weren’t previously possible.

One small bit of irony is that many apps that were developed using Apple’s development toolkit will need have modifications made to support the different sizing that would occur when an app is displayed in split screen. Codename One apps should “just work”, since it is designed from the ground up, with layout managers, to work across many different devices and screen dimensions.

4. Metal

Metal was announced last year as a more efficient graphics layer than OpenGL for iOS. Now it is available on Mac OS X. Apple describes Metal thusly:

Metal provides the lowest-overhead access to the GPU, enabling you to maximize the graphics and compute potential of your apps on iOS and OS X. With a streamlined API, precompiled shaders, and support for efficient multi-threading, Metal can take your game or app to the next level of performance and capability.

In the key note they cited performance improvements by switching to Metal between 30% and 700%. Codename One is currently using OpenGL for all of our graphics rendering but we have had our eye on Metal for some time. It is uncertain how much we can stand to gain by a switch to Metal. My conservative estimate would be closer to 30% than 700% – but who knows.

5. Apple Pay

Apparently Apple Pay is catching on. In the keynote they dazzle us with lots of numbers (e.g. 250 banks have signed on, etc…) that make it look like they really have a chance of taking over. They have successfully chiseled out a large chunk of the music and software pie. If they can get a piece of every retail transaction … I shudder to think of how big they could become. Welcome our new overlords.

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