What's in WWDC 2017 for Microsoft Stack Devs?
Apple uses the conference as a launch point for its products and services, and it behooves Microsoft developers, especially cross-platform app builders, to pay attention to new capabilities of the Apple platforms.
- By Michael Domingo
One of the more interesting tidbits from Apple CEO Tim Cook's keynote at his company's Worldwide Developer Conference 2017 (video replay here) was the introduction of Yuma Soerianto, a 10-year-old developer from Australia, and Masako Wakamiya, an 82-year-old retired banker and tech evangelist from Japan.
Yuma, Cook said, was coding since he was six and "he has five apps in the App Store." He's also got a series of videos for learning coding using Swift here, called "Anyone Can Code," which I've been viewing to see if there's hope for me yet on the learning-to-write-my-first-iPhone-app front. Masako created her first app this year, said Cook. Masako is no stranger to technology, and she's been featured in a TEDxTokyo talk on aging and technology; you can see her talk here and a CNN writeup here.
The message isn't that this stuff is so easy your kid or your grandma can use them; rather, it's that anyone from 9 to 90 who has an idea for an app should have tools available to build those ideas into real things. At least that's what I got from it.
While the conference makes announcements that seem consumer-driven, it's really geared to developers. And while it might not in the very least have anything that Microsoft developers might need to know, plenty can be gleaned from Cook's talk. Look at what was announced:
- Every Apple OS -- tvOS, watchOS, macOS/macOS High Sierra, and iOS --- because they all stem from the same generic codebase, have all been updated with a variety of new UI and VR gesture capabilities that developers using Visual Studio for Mac will be able to tap into
- App Store -- redesigned from the ground up, product pages have been redesigned to include several new ways to showcase products, and allows for in-app purchases right from the description page
- CoreML -- A number of APIs that will allow developers to give apps machine learning capabilities
- ARKit, Apple's augmented reality, which is yet another form factor for which to develop apps
- iOS 11 Developer Preview -- Includes MusicKit APIs, Business Chat, and drag-and-drop, Core NFC APIs. and other features
- SiriKit -- APIs for extending apps to use Siri voice assistant
- Apple Pay -- Will allow money transfers via text messaging, and will provide a debit card called Apple Pay Cash for online and in-store purchasing
Then there's the new hardware, which depends on all the new OSes, like HomePod and the recharged iMac and iMac Pro and MacBooks. As Microsoft developers and in particular those developing cross-platform apps, the challenge is to make sure one's apps will be error-free when running on those new products and services. The difficulty with obtaining information from the conference is that press is rarely ever able to attend sessions and other keynotes, as the company considers its information proprietary and still under development, and only paying attendees are privy to that information (and in most cases that info is revealed to attendees under a perceived non-disclosure).
I asked Visual Studio Magazine's Cross-Platform C# columnist Wallace McClure for some insight on some of the announcements, and here's what he had to say on some of the new stuff:
On iOS 11: "I'm really interested in the iOS11 features that allow for better multitasking and better display of applications on screen. If I am a mobile user, I want this stuff. September can't get here quick enough."
On Apple Pay: "I'd like to know how this works when i need to send money to someone on Android. I'm working on an application service that could use this; however, I need to send this data to someone else and I can not guarantee that they are on an iOS device. The second obvious question is, 'What is the developer story with this service?'"
On CoreML: "Recent Apple devices have some fairly good processing power. It will be interesting to see what kind of applications can make use of local machine learning techniques to make things better for a user."
Xamarin, the Microsoft division that develops a suite of cross-platform tools, has also been following the conference closely, and blogged about it here.
Here are a handful of other links we've run across that might be useful to you, in no particular order and definitely not conforming to any particular theme:
Know of an interesting link, or does your company have a new or updated product or service targeted at Visual Studio developers? Tell me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Domingo is a long-time software publishing veteran, having started up and managed several developer publications for the Clipper compiler, Microsoft Access, and Visual Basic. He's also managed IT pubs for 1105 Media, including Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine and Virtualization Review before landing his current gig as Visual Studio Magazine Editor in Chief. Besides his publishing life, he's a professional photographer, whose work can be found by Googling domingophoto.