Apple's 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote was packed with announcements of serious import to developers in Apple's ecosystem--chief among them, the debuts of the wholly-redesigned iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks.
Significant operating system overhauls can be a mixed blessing for developers: There are all sorts of new APIs (application programming interfaces) to master, and all kinds of new functionality to exploit--but that also means there's an onslaught of new work to be done to update their apps. Macworld spoke with a variety of Mac and iOS developers to gauge their reactions to the WWDC announcements.
On iOS 7's new look
"As far as the OS updates go, iOS is a huge game-changer," Rogue Amoeba CEO Paul Kafasis said. His company makes a variety of audio software, including a pair of iOS apps--one of which is currently available in the App Store and another that's in the works. Kafasis believes that iOS 7's new look instantly makes many existing apps look "out of date." His prediction: "Almost everyone will need to update their apps" so that they blend in with the rest of the operating system's visuals.
Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser agreed: "The hardest thing about iOS 7 is that it's so different that we'll really have to be building two user interfaces for a while," he said. (Panic's iOS apps include Status Board and Diet Coda.) "But it's totally worth it. That's the price of progress, and I'm happy to pay it."
Not everyone agrees with Sasser's take, though. For many apps, "nearly everything seems like it will just work" without developers needing to tweak much, said Guy English, a co-founder at Aged & Distilled (makers of Napkin). Without updates, developers won't be able to exploit iOS 7's new visual flair and features, but their existing apps should largely continue to work just fine. It's as if iOS 7 includes a compatibility layer for iOS 6: Older apps without updates will continue to exhibit an older look. Developers will thus need to decide whether they're comfortable with their apps continuing to rock an older iOS look, or if they'll want to take advantage of all the new design accoutrement.
Sasser's notion of "building two user interfaces" references a common challenge facing developers: How many previous iterations of OS X and iOS should their apps support? If developers go whole-hog on iOS 7 or OS X Mavericks, that may mean leaving users of older versions (and older devices) out in the app-updateless cold.
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