Is Swift a Step Toward an Apple Wearable Watch?

by: | Jun 3, 2014

There was stunned silence in our office at 11:47 a.m. PT Monday.  For nearly two hours, ArcTouch staff gathered around our shiny new big-screen TV — while other members of the team were at the WWDC keynote at Moscone Center — where we watched Apple CEO Tim Cook and team painstakingly reveal details of the “mother of all releases” (iOS 8), along with Mac OS X Yosemite. Each release was packed with new features and improvements that should delight the insane number of new customers Apple has acquired in the past year. And with each bit revealed, there was reaction:

iPhone calls on my PC. “Ooooh.”
iCloud Drive. “Right, makes sense.”
Email image markup. “Wow — that’s interesting.”
Airdrop sync between iOS and Mac. “Huh — yeah, well, they’re not the first, but looks great.”

105 minutes in, at about the time you’d expect the grand finale-style explosive news, Apple revealed:  Swift.

In our office, you could hear a pin drop. Then about a minute later, “Why would they create yet another programming language?” followed by, “There has to be a good reason.”

5 Reasons Why Apple Launched Swift

In the hours since, we’ve put together 5 reasons why we think Apple is doing this.

  • Objective-C is as old as the CD player (a market the iPod/iTunes destroyed). Some languages have serious longevity, but this is Apple we’re talking about — and it’s hard to fathom their ecosystem being tied to a language invented in 1983.
  • Apple is trying to expand their developer mindshare. Cook mentioned that there are now 9 million registered Apple developers, 47% of which have joined the party in the past year.  That’s an enormous number of new developers who are getting started with iOS or wanting to get started. Objective-C isn’t a programming language well suited for beginners, despite Apple’s recent effort to reduce its complexities. Swift promises a lower barrier to entry — especially with the new playground tools in Xcode 6. That will be attractive for students and the education market, and might aid Apple’s position in emerging markets. It also may appeal to enterprise developers, who were previously versed in C# or .Net and need to reapply their skills to something new with a simpler learning curve.
  • Apple everything: The keynote demos highlighted what Apple called proximity awareness, and having a continuous digital experience across devices – PC, phone and tablet. It’s a compelling pitch for individuals and families to completely switch to Apple households. The introduction of Swift might be Apple’s corollary for developers, as they try to grow its developer ecosystem, and as a byproduct, discourage Android development. Junior developers getting started with Swift might have a harder time with the more fragmented Android market.
  • Less code = fewer errors. Swift has fewer lines of code. Fewer lines of code means there is less chance of bugs — and where errors are introduced, it will be easier to find them (sparing QA time and shortening time to market). It’s a simple concept, and a compelling reason to use Swift.
  • Simple, clean code = less drain on device battery life for devices = better fit for low-powered wearable. We’ll admit there are a few leaps here, but consider:
    • Swift’s simplicity will lead to cleaner and concise code that’s more efficient when compiled, plus…
    • Two benefits of an app with clean and concise code: less battery drain on the device running it, and it requires less processing power, plus…
    • Less battery drain and reduced need for processing power means you can have lower cost devices that run longer between charges…

All Of Which Could Add Up To… An Apple Wearable!

So maybe that’s the real reason behind Swift: to train developers in the new language of choice for Apple’s first foray into their next big hardware play — low powered, low cost wearables — starting with a low-powered wearable watch (the rumored iWatch) or a FitBit style health monitor. And while previous smart watches have been perceived by some as gimmicky, Apple may be the only company that has the credibility to establish the category.

What Do You Think?

That’s our best guess. But why do you think Apple has unveiled Swift? Comment below or tweet us.

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