Apple: Objective-C to be replaced by Swift?

July 23 2015 By Posted in Expertise

A lot of OSX and iOS developers are worried that their favorite development language will soon disappear in favor of the astonishing rise of the new language that Apple is calling ‘Swift’. Proclaimed much more efficient than Objective-C, Swift is supposed to improve user experience significantly.

Swift is a programming language for application development on iOS and OSX operating systems, and was presented by Apple at the WWDC 2014 as an alternative to Objective-C. The two languages thus were supposed to coexist.

 

Yet for awhile Swift has been rising rapidly in the world of programming. In July 2014 it rose to 16th place among the most popular programming languages. The book, “Swift Programming Language”, a 500-page technical manual, was downloaded more than 370,000 times following the unveiling of Swift at the WWDC 2014. Subsequently, in mid-July 2014, Apple opened a blog dedicated to Swift on its web site, where Apple engineers take readers behind the scenes of the creation of Swift, discuss new features, and offer advice about the language.

 

Statistics provided by VisionMobile show that 20% of Apple OS developers are already using Swift. Statistics collected by Github and Stack Overflow indicate that the number of articles and the number of questions asked about Swift between June 2014 and August 2014 already accounted for 25% of postings for Objective-C. The essential question for thousands of Apple OS developers is: “are we about to see the end of  Objective-C?”.

 

Some believe it’s a deliberate strategy on the part of Apple to transition to this new language which facilitates development, for example by streamlining code, with a view to eventually ending up with Swift only. It is nevertheless true that Objective-C is a language with several years behind it. It is time for Apple to think of evolving toward a Swift-driven environment which seems to bring on major improvements in terms of performance (Swift is reportedly up to 220 times faster than Python with RC4 encryption). In addition, Swift encompasses a number of useful programming concepts such as generic classes, closures, namespaces and type inference. What’s more, Apple says, it is simpler to learn Swift than to get a handle on Objective-C.

 

At present, things are still up in the air. Apple has not required developers to rewrite their code to move from Objective-C to Swift. However a big part of the programming community is fearing the worst. Officially Swift has always been presented as an ‘improvement’ over Objective-C (even if the syntax is very different). But we all know that the Cupertino-based company has always been able to impose its technical choices on developers, and those choices are always closely related to its sales policy and technological vision.

 

Are we going to have to wait until the new iOS 9 SDK comes out to know for sure?

 

Haythem, R&D Mobile IOS Team

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