Why Apple's 'Swift' Programming Language Could Be More Important Than New Hardware

Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) held its Worldwide Developers Conference last week and while lots of software announcements were made nothing was said about new hardware. 

The news that iOS 8 was coming for iPhones and tablets and the launch of OS Yosemite for Macs got a lot of media attention in the technology world, but the lack of a new "i" product left the mainstream press underwhelmed. Host Jason Hellmann raised the possibility that nothing Apple does matters unless it's announcing a major change to its iPhones, iPads, or, better yet, a new product line, on this episode of Business Take: the show that gives you the Foolish perspective on the most important business stories of the week.

"It's got to be something truly new," panelist Daniel Kline responded. "I wrote about the fact [here] that very quietly they released something amazing. You're going to have the ability to answer your phone on your computer or your iPad, which is really cool, and nobody cared. Unless they announce a watch or a TV or headband that can tell you when you're going to have a heart attack, I don't think any of this matters."

Apple usually makes hardware announcements in early fall, but for the last few years the company has failed to deliver a new product. Instead the tech giant has offered incremental changes to existing devices. This has kept the business moving forward but has largely failed to ignite the kind of Apple-mania that began with the ascent of the iPod and continued through the early iPhones and the launch of iPad.

"My mom needs there to be a new i-something [to get her interested] and while they say the pipeline is deep, you don't hear anything," Kline said.

Panelist Jake Mann had an entirely different take on Apple's future, noting that while product launches get all the media type he believed the biggest move at WWDC was the introduction of Swift -- a programming language that should make it easier for developers to create apps for iPhones and iPads.

"That could potentially improve Apple's lead in some markets," Mann said.

The new programming language takes on even more importance as Apple loses tablet and smartphone market share. While developers tend to make more developing apps for sale in the Apple ecosystem, increasing numbers of Android users may change that. That makes Swift -- and anything else Apple does to entice developers -- especially important.

"I wish the market or the media would pay attention to some of the developments Apple is working on besides hardware," Mann said. "Swift isn't sexy but that could potentially have a bigger effect on the future of the company."

How do you feel about Apple's lack of a shiny new i-something? Watch the video for the whole story and then share your thoughts and comments in the section below.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2014, at 3:19 PM, peanutgalerygeek wrote:

    Everybody keeps looking for the next COBOL. Maybe this is it.

    Grace Hooper might be smiling right now.

  • Report this Comment On June 13, 2014, at 11:08 PM, ekdikeo wrote:

    It's another form of vendor lockin -- Objective C is too easily similar to C++ to be able to really lock the devs in. Once they're using Apple's special language, then those apps will be extremely difficult to port to any other platform.

    Not that this has really been a problem to begin with -- if you happen to own both an iPad and an Android tablet, you can easily see that pretty much every app that has both an iPad and Android version, has a much better iPad version than Android. Very rarely are Android apps feature complete compared to, or designed with the same care as iOS apps.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2014, at 3:02 AM, dmarinescu wrote:

    when java was born, they were looking for a better c (well c++) for embedded and mobile... when c# was born, this is mostly a java with lipstick (better, yet the same). both had something in common: lot for garbage to collect and low performance, compared to the giants they were (so called) replacing

    but the birth of swift is different. it is as performant as c and c++ and objective-c, yet it has the best of java, c#, you name it. when apple put the static analyzer to work, to do refcounts for you (otherwise you will have to do by yourself) that was innovative! (and nobody talked about in press). this is innovative again! a language smoother than both c# and java together, taking no prisoners in terms of performance, using the very same runtime, allowing you to statically link in hybrid apps (pay as you go while using it), well, this smells like the future, just like c did once, just like fortran did before c and so on. this is very good. i do believe that this is way more important than new hardware! if i were them i would have called it 21st (or l21) as in this great century we're starting to experience together (yet apart)

    great job apple! (capitals, bold, 27, red, you name it, have to run before you "hear the violins" but hey, it's true!) Great Job APPLE!!!

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Daniel B. Kline

Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for the Microsoft's Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book "Worst Ideas Ever" (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

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