Apple announced its Swift Playgrounds app at WWDC yesterday, which will teach kids to code in Swift. Interwoven between CEO Tim Cook’s talk of freeing kids’ minds with code and setting them up for successful careers was a familiar storyline and business blueprint. Apple’s efforts to market Swift mirror its selling strategy for the rest of its technology. Swift and Swift Playgrounds look like any other Apple product, function like the rest of its devices, and fit in with the company’s established business model.
Functionally, Swift Playgrounds fits in with Apple's technology lineup. "Swift is powerful but it’s also simple and approachable," Cook said yesterday. Just like the MacBook and iPhone, Swift is easy to learn and use. It’s without a doubt an improvement over Objective-C, Apple’s primary programming language before Swift, which is bulky and old-fashioned compared to Swift’s elegant syntax and modern programming paradigm.
Swift is easier to read and more intuitive than its predecessor
And for a programming language, Swift is easier to read and more intuitive than its predecessor, which are the exact words Apple uses to describe its other products on its website. There’s no doubt that "intuitive" is accurate. The ease with which new technology adopters can pick up and use an Apple device contributes to Apple’s success. Swift looks easy to understand for a novice programmer while Swift Playgrounds is as simple as playing a game, which is a big change from traditional coding lessons.
The biggest draw to Swift Playgrounds is that it’s approachable compared to programming books that look like textbooks and read like technical manuals. Aesthetically, Swift Playgrounds is a whole lot prettier than those old coding books, too. The app fits in alongside Apple’s other products — look at those emoji! "Writing swift code is fun and interactive," Cook said yesterday. This sounds similar to the vibe Apple sent with its classic iPod commercials.
Swift Playgrounds is more approachable than older programming books
But most importantly, Swift Playgrounds fits into Apple's proprietary business efforts as it has a vested interest in teaching kids to code in Swift; apps built in Swift only work on iOS devices. With Swift Playgrounds, Apple is hoping its programming language will be the gateway to coding that encourages a new generation of App Store developers. That being said, we should note that Swift is open source, so it’s possible it’ll be more widely adopted on Linux and eventually show up on Android.
Locking people into its ecosystem is kind of Apple’s thing (Ehm, iMessage). "Because Swift is so easy to learn, it has the potential to bring more people into coding," Cook said. The more, the better. And what’s more enticing to young people and parents than a free app?
Updated 6/14, 3:46 PM ET: Updated to note that Swift is now open source.