WWDC 2014 and Apple's Trust in Developers

A few weeks into building my first small iOS app in 2010 I decided to watch some WWDC videos covering the various frameworks I was planning on using.

Every single video was something new and exciting that I didn’t know about, and every single one gave me a new idea or feature I wanted to add to my small (but quickly growing) app. It was electrifying and incredibly addicting. But more than anything, it was inspiring. 

Thats the way I felt all week at WWDC 2014. I haven’t felt this inspired by the platform since I started working on it 4 years ago. From all the Kits to Swift. We even got extensions, something I’ve been wishing for since 2012. The amount of new tools and improvements released this year is simply staggering.

When I think back to last week, and also on the last 20 years of being a user of Apple products, I can tell that the state of Apple’s software platform has never been stronger.  

Apple has always been great at building excellent platforms that provide great experiences for their users. And their platforms have also been great for developers. Apple has an incredibly loyal developer following, which has grown exponentially in recent years.

But developers and their creations have not always taken center stage on Apple’s platforms. In many cases both on iOS and on the Mac they have played second fiddle to Apple services and to Apple-provided apps.

There have been different reasons for this at different times. While the Mac was still growing in the early 2000’s, Apple was investing heavily in building the best apps possible on the Mac to attract users to the platform. This was an obvious thing to do. For years, Apple set the bar for quality on the Mac with their own software. This was when we saw the introduction of many landmark apps on the Mac, like iMovie and iPhoto. They blew everything else away, not only on the Mac, but on any other platform. They were huge selling points for attracting new users to the platform. But they were built by Apple, not by 3rd party developers.

On iOS there have been different reasons for Apple’s dominance. There was a time when certain categories of apps weren’t even allowed, or APIs weren’t available to developers even though they were used privately by Apple. But also, while more recent iOS updates have been extremely powerful and friendly towards developers, Apple would usually reserve its own content for center stage. PassBook, the new iWork, Notification Center, and of course the new Maps. All of these were highly emphasized and touted by Apple as key user-facing features of their respective iOS updates, dwarfing improvements made by developers in their own apps on the platform.

But this year we are seeing a big shift. Apple has opened up so many new capabilities to developers. They’ve provided the tools for entire new categories of apps to be built. But most importantly, they are including developers in the story of how these new releases will be perceived by end users.

When a developer installs the beta of iOS 8 they’ll notice how similar it feels to iOS 7. In many ways, the initial beta is the same experience as iOS 7, with very few obvious new user facing features. But there’s a very good reason for that, which Apple highlights clearly on its iOS 8 home page. The best features of iOS 8 are being built RIGHT NOW by Developers!

With iOS 8 and Yosemite, Apple has given Developers the ultimate vote of confidence. Apple is trusting us to make iOS 8 the best release of iOS ever. And they gave us the tools to do it, with the most amazing developer release we've yet seen on the platform. They’ve given us the ability to build entire categories of apps that didn’t exist before, and extend the system in ways never before possible save for system apps and sanctioned services. Its such an exciting time for the platform right now, and thats without even mentioning all of the improvements and the exciting future in store for Xcode, Swift, and the Cocoa development environment.

We’ll remember this year for a long time. Apple just gave us the keys to the family car. And I am super excited about it!