Top 3 Developer Takeaways from WWDC 2015

iOS 9 running on iPhones. Image credit: Apple.

iOS 9 running on iPhones. Image credit: Apple.

By Calvin Lai

By now, technologists have likely heard about what Apple unveiled about WatchOS 2, iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan during WWDC last week. There was plenty of buzz in Apple’s keynote for consumers, as we talked about in an earlier blog, but here are our top three things developers should know about the event.

1. iOS 9 + iPad Multitasking

iPad Air 2 multitasking

Multitasking with iOS 9. Image credit: Apple.

For productivity, the biggest difference between OS X and iOS apps has been multitasking. iOS traditionally runs a single app at a time, taking up full screen. While that works for apps that require focus, iOS 9’s new multitasking features lets you view two apps simultaneously for improved productivity. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to do research on the web while writing, or you want to watch a video while browsing your Twitter feed, you can do that in iOS9.

When running apps in multitasking mode, apps will have higher demand on an iPad’s processing and memory resources. For developers, this new mode of consuming apps necessitates new techniques to get your apps to work responsively as multitasking constrains resources.

A session titled “Optimizing Your App for Multitasking on iPad in iOS 9” deep dives into the details on what developers can do to design responsive apps. Topics covered include how the operating system manages memory during multitasking, lazy loading techniques that balance processor and memory resources, and a Memory Mapped Data API that allows developers to take advantage of a flash storage-based virtual memory system.

2. Stack View for iOS

Auto Layout provides a powerful tool for developers to build complex user interfaces. Traditional Auto Layout however requires developers to create and maintain voluminous layout constraint rules that can add complexity when building user interfaces.

With the new addition of NSStackView in iOS 9, developers can now lay out views arranged in a column or a row without going through the lengthy process of creating layout constraints on individual screen elements. Under the hood, stack view leverages Auto Layout transparently to create views that can respond to screen size, device orientation and available space changes.

In the session “Mysteries of Auto Layout, Part 1”, Apple introduces new Stack View support in XCode Interface Builder, the how to of building complex UIs by nestings multiple Stack Views, and tips and tricks for productivity with Interface Builder.

3. watchOS 2

Apple’s watchOS2 is the star of the show in this year’s WWDC, and with the new OS comes native watch app support. To date, third party watch apps have needed the phone nearby to work correctly; WatchKit for watchOS2 introduces enhancements that allow watch apps to function richer independent of a nearby phone.

Apple introduces the new OS in the session titled “Introducing WatchKit for watchOS2”. With the new animation APIs, developers can now build apps with more dynamic and fluid user interfaces. API access to video and audio recording will allow you to build apps that weren’t possible before. And the addition of Taptic engine and Digital Crown API allows for apps with richer, tactile experiences.

What’s next

You can learn more on what’s new from the recorded videos of all WWDC 2015 sessions. Apple is building a smarter and more expansive ecosystem, from what you wear on your wrist to the computing devices we use daily. These videos give us a glimpse on what’s next in the Apple ecosystem, and it’s now our turn to build compelling experiences with it.

Calvin Lai is an App Practice Lead for Datacom’s Mobile Innovation team. 

Day One at WWDC 2015

WWDC2015_ApplethroughtheGlass

By Husain Al-Badry and Calvin Lai

Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) is arguably the most anticipated developer conference in the world. Apple uses the event as a platform for making big announcements and showcasing key milestones within the company and the wider tech industry. Eight years ago, Steve Jobs presented the iPhone to the world at WWDC, and a year later he followed up with the App Store: the tool that gave birth to digital giants around the globe.

More recently, the event has focused more on Apple’s software changes, and this year was no different.

Needless to say, the keynote did not disappoint on news from the technology giant. The highlights were:

  • Announcement of OSX 10.11, El Capitan, containing a series of enhancements focused on user experience and performance.
  • Announcement of iOS 9, packed full of features such as a smarter Siri and multi-tasking for the iPad, as well as a gambit of toys for developers that really showcase the maturity of iOS’s native development platform.
  • Announcement of watchOS 2, which finally allows native apps to run on the Apple Watch, making it more independent from the iPhone.
  • Announcement of Swift 2, now becoming an open source language that also runs on Linux (yes, Apple is doing open source). This is huge news that could see Swift becoming a real Java competitor.
  • All the developer tooling becoming free, including developer accounts which will now use a freemium model.
  • Steve Jobs’ famous “One More Thing…” moment at the end of the keynote to launch Apple Music, a new music streaming platform that combines Dr. Dre’s Beats Music, Beats 1 Radio (a global radio station), and Beats Connect (a social platform for artists).

While the keynote was more consumer-oriented, it gave developers insights into the vast number of new features they’ll have access to, and will need to adjust their apps for. The follow up session was the Platforms State of the Union, which gave a developer-focused view into the new features under the hood in OSX El Capitan, iOS 9, watchOS 2, and Swift 2.

For iOS 9 in particular, there were some enhancements that really showcase the maturity of the tooling. This includes Crash Logs, which now integrates all the way from XCode into the App Store to track app crashes and provide a way for developers to track the issue fixing lifecycle end to end: a strong enabler for Continuous Delivery. The benefits of this extended issue tracking will help developers provide better support to customers and an improved experience for end-users.

Apple wrapped up the day with the Apple Design Awards, which give the industry the benchmark for designing innovative, beautiful, engaging apps that focus on the user experience in great detail. Some really stunning apps and games were showcased here, with developers and designers who demonstrate their passion for applying great design thinking to create app experiences which delight users. These awards were something every developer in the audience should have drawn inspiration from and aspired to achieve.

The days that follow will focus in on the details. This WWDC is lined up to be a cracker, and for developers, this really is the WWDC of watchOS. We’re looking forward to bringing our insights home with us and sharing them with customers.

How to Use Mobile Solutions to Be More Strategic

Mobility isn’t just about fulfilling the need for instant BYOD gratification amongst your employees.

If done right, mobile solutions can further strategic endeavours that improve business processes and value. Application management, a team approach and hardware planning are ways mobile solutions can help inform the greater business-IT strategy.

Mobile solutions meet application management

Even if you develop and host enterprise applications through an outside provider, the IT team can use them as a chance to drive more business value. Staying on top of application management and development can help the CIO and IT managers become more innovative, as they will have the first say in configuring additional features or back-end integration. Capabilities around mobile apps and cloud can further help the IT application management team tap into unmet needs and opportunities for innovation.

Getting others involved in mobile solutions

The implementation of mobile solutions in organisations often stalls because too many aspects of the project fall on the shoulders of the CIO and his or her team. Governance of a mobile solutions project should extend to other departments such as legal, human resources and security teams so you can address issues of compliance and reimbursement for mobile device expenses. Other business units should also be involved in your mobile solutions roadmap, as each one will likely have different aims and business processes it is looking to improve. Not only will this free up the CIO for other tasks, but it will ensure that the strategic needs of the different parts of the business are being considered as mobile solutions are implemented.

Using mobile solutions to guide hardware decisions

If you listen to some advocates, mobility is going to swiftly expunge the traditional desktop from the enterprise landscape. Do you believe this at your organisation, or would you rather PCs and iPads co-exist? These questions are important to ask, because introducing mobile solutions into the enterprise will have an impact on hardware purchasing and volume licensing decisions a few years down the pike. For instance, you can start plotting a road map for when you will stop purchasing traditional hardware and letting employees work solely from their own PCs. As a full-scale IT provider in everything from volume licensing and mobile application management to hardware procurement, Datacom can help you take these areas into consideration as you plan your mobility strategy.

Which Mobile App Delivery Method is Right for Your Organisation?

Are you ready to let your employees use mobile apps? You have more to consider than just what apps you’re going to let them access – you have a few delivery options as well. Picking the right one depends on what you need in terms of security, IT management and device compatibility. Here are a few considerations to get you started.

You need: No data stored on the device

Choose: Virtualisation or cloud

Enterprise users will make up about 75 per cent of the market for cloud-based mobile apps by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Both virtualising your mobile apps and delivering them through the cloud keep data off the device. Both approaches also can put more control in the hands of the IT department, which can oversee access to applications and manage how they are used.

Security buffs are likely fiercely nodding their heads, but keep in mind that if you virtualise, there could be usability issues surrounding the need for constant network connectivity and how a mobile app looks and performs on a device. Delivering mobile apps through the cloud can ease these usability issues, but your security concerns will only be abated if you know where your data is sitting.

You need: To take the app migration burden off IT

Choose: An enterprise app store

By 2014, 60 per cent of IT organisations will have private app stores, according to Gartner. These stores work similarly to Apple’s app store by allowing employees to quickly and securely download certain applications they are authorised to use. This takes a lot of the burden off IT as they don’t need to provision apps to different users and devices.

However, building an app store does come at a cost, and users might grumble if your app store doesn’t resemble Apple’s. That means you need to consider the ability to rate apps, search for apps, recommend similar apps and allow user feedback.

You need: Compatibility across a wide range of devices

Choose: Web apps

Their ability to run in browsers means web apps don’t require a distribution system, so users can access them from any number of devices. Plus, IT doesn’t need to create several incarnations of one app, which leads to easier delivery and management. Internet connectivity will always be a concern to run web apps, however; if it’s poor, even refreshing the screen will cause problems.

These are just a few reasons for considering the different mobile app delivery methods. If your organisation needs additional help with taking its enterprise applications into the mobile world, Datacom’s Enterprise Mobility Applications practise can help. We handle application development, integrate apps with devices and offer field service support to ensure you applications run smoothly.

How are you delivering mobile apps in your organisation?

Pros of Outsourcing Mobile Application Development and Management

Creating enterprise mobile applications for your organisation can improve efficiency, service, flexibility and productivity. If software development isn’t one of your core business functions, however, it can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing technology used in creating mobile apps, and your IT department will likely grapple with the development process. Outsourcing your mobile applications – both the development and management of them – lets your IT department continue focussing on its core competencies.

It alleviates device management headaches

Developing mobile apps is one thing; making sure you can deliver them to different devices is another. If you leave your mobile apps project with internal IT staff, they’ll likely spend considerable time addressing management and security features across a range of different tablets and smartphones. In addition to actually developing software for you, an IT outsourcer can oversee device integration and connectivity so all your employees can take advantage of the custom mobile application. IT outsourcers that offer field service support can help iron out any hiccups that occur duringapplication delivery.

It cuts down on testing time

Increasing fragmentation of mobile operating systems and device models has made mobile apps testing more complex. There is a serious risk that turning inward to the IT department for mobile apps development will run up costs and resources and extend project time. Outsourcing application development allows you to benefit from a proven testing methodology. For instance, Datacom software developers rely upon Test-Driven Development, a technique involving automated unit tests that guide application design and force decoupling of dependencies so software can continually be evaluated to ensure it remains working. This method ensures our developers only create production code when they understand the ultimate outcome and how to test the result.

It gives application management better attention

IT departments unfamiliar with mobile apps development might dust off their hands once they finish creating and delivering the new software. This is a mistake, as application performance and measurement won’t be addressed. In addition, mobile device application development might also require different management tools than traditional software, as it involves varied end-user behaviour and experiences. An IT outsourcer can help you take advantage of application managementbased on service-level agreements that account for reliability and availability measurements. The best outsourced mobile application services also allow organisations access to shared tracking systems so customers can continually monitor application performance.

How has your organisation benefited from outsourcing mobile application development and/or management?