Engineering

5 Predictions for WWDC17

Editorial Note: Our community blog post series is authored by buddybuild users, and other respected mobile developers. This post is written by Sam Jarman, iOS Developer at Sailthru.

Every year a pilgrimage to WWDC happens for thousands of developers. From far and wide they descend on California in the United States for a week full of Apple goodness. There’s bands, tech-talks, meetups, happy hours, awards and even selfies. For those of us who didn't get lucky in the raffle this year, or who live further abroad, we’ll likely gather at a local company with fellow devs, to watch and react to the announcements live. I know that's exactly what I'll be doing at around 5 AM, equipped with breakfast and excitement.

In anticipation for the event, I’ve written out five of my predictions for what Apple will announce at WWDC 2017:

  • A Swift-First IDE
  • A Mixed Reality Offering
  • Instant Apps
  • New Bug Reporting
  • A Social App

These predictions aren’t the obvious ones which may be a bit risky, but what's life without a little risk? Let's dive into why these are my five predictions for WWDC17...

1) A Swift-First IDE

Apple’s efforts on tooling for Swift have been very mixed. In some wins, we’ve gotten Playgrounds and the Swift Package Manager, but in other senses, we’re way behind in error cases, migrators and refactoring. While these meta-programming issues can be explained by Swift’s actual progress as a language (and things are looking up), it leads me to think there might be another reason for all of this – they’re working on a Swift IDE.

It’d be a great time to leave the cruft and legacy of Xcode behind and build a Swift-first IDE for devs to create apps with for the next 10 years. App development has changed so much since it’s inception and the sheer number of developers using Apple’s tools has increased exponentially. It really might be time to tear it down and start fresh. Who knows, they might even help us solve merge conflicts in .xibs – one can dream, right? 😅

Apple has a real chance to make a truly accessible IDE again. Xcode is a whopping 8GB download these days, and even Microsoft has come to the table with VSCode, a lightweight C# IDE to join Atom and Sublime Text. This would be far more accessible to students and those in remote areas. It could be even open source and cross-platform.

Finally, I think Apple could really innovate here and produce something that raises the standards of all future IDEs. They’ve accomplished this on the product side and I think now that developers are a sizeable audience for them, it’s time to innovate in this space as well. Perhaps this new IDE could benefit more than just Swift devs, if it was general purpose enough, it could serve as a great replacement for all of our text editors.

I think a Swift-first IDE is coming… and you can read more about my rant on this here.

2) A Mixed Reality Offering

For a while now, Google has had its Daydream VR product, and with Facebook starting to do some cool things with Oculus, a lot of us are wondering when Apple is going to join the party. While VR itself hasn’t really had the consumer adoption it was expected to, and may be the next 3D TV, all the big players are investing heavily in it, and the experiences are actually getting really good.

What is interesting to me is a more augmented- or mixed-reality from Apple. I’d love to see an alternative to Google Glass or Snap’s Spectacles. And while there isn’t much evidence for this, I do have a quiet hope. As Apple has recently been building and nearing completion of their new campus, I suspect they may have quietly developed some VR or AR tech in house to let executives visualize the future buildings and offices. That said, they could have easily used an existing solution for this.

A more solid tip of evidence to a mixed reality offering is the release of Apple’s Clips app - a photo and video capturing app. It has some great features and is actually a really well built app. What if they did something similar to what you can do with Snapchat and Spectacles? Now that would be cool. I suspect this might be coming, as well as a few whispers of a social networking play by Apple. More on this below!

So how will this look? I suspect, and Oleg agrees, this will probably start as a framework called VRKit, with hardware possibly coming down the line. I think first your iPhone will slot into a Google Cardboard like device, and then later, full headsets. I expect to see the same level of polish and perfection that Apple brought to the Earpods in terms of industrial design as well. Perfect fit (for most), great sound and screens and no nauseating experiences. It’ll be great to see Apple enter this market and hopefully bring some much needed design style to the hardware. There’s more evidence such as patents and some other smart thinking in a full summary on this MacRumours page.

3) Instant Apps

As part of a new operating system such as iOS 10.4 or iOS 11, I believe we’ll see something called Instant Apps. Android announced a while ago that they are able to download a portion of your app after browsing on the web - such as a shopping cart component or a hardware accelerated viewer or component.

I wrote about this in an earlier post outlining the reasons why I think this feature is coming to the new OS. In short, I cite three reasons for this:

The first is the extensions and frameworks architecture that Apple has introduced over the last two years. With the existing Notification extensions,Today widgets, and Siri, an Instant App extension would fit right in.

Secondly, Apple really likes to train us with these features. AutoLayout prompted different screen sizes and split screen. Frameworks promoted modularity and I believe extensions will prompt much more.

Thirdly, Deep linking and Universal links are amazing on Android, and I believe Apple will want to continue something similar on iOS. It feels natural that a deep link could open existing apps, as well as download portions of apps to just respond.

As an example, for a purchase completion, out of the 10-15 frameworks inside your app, the instant part might just download the Cart, Authentication, Billing and Networking frameworks in order to complete the purchase. It’s exciting and I hope it happens!

4) New Bug Reporting

Apple made a real emphasis at last year’s WWDC to keep filing bugs (often called “Radars”) to them filled with useful information. Typically the general vibe amongst developer is that Radars were often ignored, and at the very least, never followed up.

However, I think Apple is changing. I feel like the open-source nature of Swift has really internally sold Apple on the idea of more community engagement and visibility around feature development and bug fixes. The Swift repo alone has had over 400 different contributors which is pretty darn awesome.

So what’s wrong? Well, as Lucas points out, the current solution is really ugly and outdated. I think we’ll see a completely new version, that ties into Xcode (or the new thing mentioned above) that ties nicely into Github or Jira that collections Apple the information they need and sends them complete reports that their engineers can work effectively with. The resulting output will be a trackable, searchable interface to see conversations and progress on the bug.

Hopefully we’ll see this great step forward in Apple Engineering/Community relations with more openness and information. A new Apple is dawning, and I like it.

Editorial note: as we were drafting this post, Apple actually did release a beta of a new Bug Reporter to some developers. You can read the details released here.

5) A Social App

As I talked about earlier, Clips was released the other day. A lot of industry spectators think this is a first step in a direction of a social network from Apple. We’ve seen Apply try and fail a few times with this, such as Game Centre and Ping. But I think they’re starting to refine and perfect the building blocks for a modern social network. iMessage, a chat component of the network, is coming along nicely with fun effects and iMessage apps. Clips is bringing up the social photo sharing. News has provided a place for news websites and blogs. FaceTime brings social calling and Find My Friends bring in location tracking and possibly down the line, check-ins.

Seeing these all combine into a single experience (probably with stories, let’s be honest) would make for a pretty compelling experience. With the instant familiarity, they would have also solved the first problem of social networks which is adoption. Apple already has over 800 Million users on iTunes, turning on a social network would mean they were bigger than about five Snapchats!

It could be interesting to see. Some say it’s not Apple’s space and they should stay out of it… but they could have stayed out of the portable music player and tablet market too, I guess? That would have been boring. Bring it, Apple!

Some Bonus Predictions...

I believe we’ll see updates and possibly betas for iOS, watchOS, macOS and tvOS as well a as a view at new version of Xcode.

So that’s it! Those are my kinda-out-there predictions for WWDC 2017. We’ll have to wait and see if I was right. What do you think, am I spot on or did I miss the mark? I’d love to know - chat to me on twitter! I’m @samjarman. I also write a lot more iOS themed posts like this, including a series for junior developers, over on my blog.

Share your WWDC17 Predictions

Have your own predictions about what Apple’s announcing on June 5th?

Share them with buddybuild for a chance to an Apple watch, and other awesome prizes!

Buddybuild will be collecting predictions until midnight PST on June 4th, the night before the Keynote. Prizes will be awarded based on most accurate predictions. That said, there will also be an award for the most interesting, or far-fetched prediction. After the conference, we'll publish a blog post to show just how accurately the iOS dev community can predict Apple’s announcements!

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