Swift: Apple’s next-gen programming language 4 years in the making

“Swift, Apple’s new programming language billed as taking the C out of Objective-C, was one of the biggest surprises at WWDC 2014,” Rene Ritchie reports for iMore. “The Swift project started at Apple roughly 4 years ago as one of several explorations into what would replace the NeXT-era Object-C language.”

“It was spearheaded by Chris Lattner, head of Apple’s developer tools department, who also spearheaded LLVM (lower level virtual machine) and Clang, Apple’s compiler technologies,” Ritchie reports. “Objective-C was the result of Apple buying NeXT. Swift is the result of steady, continuous changes. It’s the result of smart management and responsible stewardship, that, in the fullness of time, will likely result in just as much of a leap forward as a NeXT-style purchase. It’s also something more.”

Ritchie reports, “Objective-C was unlikely to be in any grade school curriculum, unlikely to be any child’s first programming language. We’ll have to wait and see how Swift and Playgrounds fare, but if they really do make it easier to engage new programmers at a younger age the value to Apple, the industry, and the future will be incalculable.”

Read more in the full article here.

40 Comments

  1. Wait for it.. wait for it.. and now samsmug will announce a new programing language too.. of course, it won’t be delivered just as they did not delivered their 64 bit phone.

    1. Yes a new programming language from Samsung – two weeks in the making! It’s gotta be good. Slamdung is doomed and they know it. Apple is gonna keep the pressure on and they just won’t be able to keep up. Time and constant innovation will prove to be the best thermonuclear revenge.

      1. S-Pen
        S-Voice

        S-Wallow ? (wallowing in the shadow of apple)
        Or perhaps a fruit:
        S-Lime

        Or maybe indicating a lower barrier to entry:
        S-Lower

        Or perhaps because they want to connote small and efficient (while at the same time saying they’re borrowing the concept):
        Slender (S-Lender)

  2. I hope Apple releases Swift as an open standard in a couple years. That way it can become a cross platform development environment and compilers (and IDEs) can be created for more than just the chips and chip sets that Apple supports. The vast majority of developers do not program exclusively for Apple hardware.

    Apple can still keep an Apple variant and release updates to the open standards committee on a yearly or semi yearly basis. This will keep Apple at the forefront of the language as the standards committees typically take six months to several years to incorporate changes into a language’s standard. Hell, FORTRAN back in the 70s and 80s had the official F77 standard, but virtually everyone used compilers that supported the “VAX extensions” to the standard.

    To some extent this was/is the problem with Microsoft’s C# language. It has never really migrated beyond the Windows world. A lot of programmers love it, but it has never realistically migrated to other OSes or hardware platforms not supported by Windows.

    If Apple releases it as an open standard, in a few years, if you wanted to write cross platform apps, then you could. If you wanted to further tailor the app to include Apple’s latest and greatest extensions, then you could too.

    1. In this scenario, Apple would relinquish any competitive advantage it might gain as a result of its years of toil developing Swift. Nah, don’t see it happening.

      1. There is absolutely no justification for Apple to make this language cross-platform. Why on earth would they want to give away the development tools for the competing platform? The only way to hold onto dominant market share is to keep development tools proprietary. The secondary benefit of such strategy is that your development tool is highly optimised for your hardware, which further sets you apart from the competition.

        Apple has long been the only company in the world making both the OS and the hardware it runs on. They were the only ones in the position to create development tools that can be most perfectly tailored to take advantage of their hardware. No other OS has such development tools. Why would Apple want to be in business of making it easier for developers to hedge their bets against Apple’s eco-system? If you are developer and don’t believe Apple’s marketplace is large enough for your product, feel free to port your product to the competing market, but don’t expect Apple to help you there.

        1. Of course the language will eventually become cross-platform! Just as most of Apple’s other development tools are; LLBD, LLVM, Objective-C, Clang.

          What we won’t see, is Xcode running on other platforms. Xcode is specifically designed for iOS and OS X programming (but can also be used for general programming; command line tools, etc.).

    2. Well if you want cross platform you’ll have better luck with C# if you don’t mind writing against the Mono framework.

      MS just moved more of .net to the open source world so it will get better but right now you can write C# on the MonoTouch framework and target multiple devices and platforms including the iPad and iPhone.

    3. Not to mention that Apple clearly demonstrated their strong resentment to all those “lowest common denominator” cross-platform development tools. If you wanted to develop cross-platform application, you’d want to have feature- and function-parity across platforms. The only way to do this would be to eliminate functions/features that take advantage of the unique features in iOS ecosystem and hardware. This is why Apple never allowed Flash as a development platform anywhere near iOS. The message was always clear: if you want to develop for iOS, you MUST use our development tools. By doing that, Apple motivates developers to leverage unique iOS features.

    4. More than likely Apple will release Swift as an open language, just as all their work with Objective-C, Clang and LLVM.

      Even if others adopt Swift as their language of choice, that in no way means that apps will become cross-platform. For that to happen, API’s and RTE’s will also have to be written for each targeted platform.

      Objective-C is not an OS X technology, it used throughout the OS, but it’s also built into the gcc compiler, meaning that Linux/Unix programmers can also use it IF they choose to. But they don’t. It’s ubiquitous on OS X because the APIs are all (mostly) written in Objective-C and have been for over two decades.

  3. serious question: what other platforms use Objective-C ?

    My guess is: none. Therefore there is no disadvantage for Apple if they keep Swift for themselves. Objective-C was already proprietary, sort of. So, there are only advantages for Apple developers.

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