The app development world went gaga on Thursday morning that Apple was going to “open source” its super popular new programming language, Swift. And no one was happier than IBM.
Open source means that anyone can download the language, use it, see how it’s put together, make changes or write tools for it and submit them to be included in the main project.
Swift has taken the software development world by storm because it’s very easy to learn yet very powerful and it helps programmers write faster more secure apps.
The upshot is, Swift is no longer under Apple’s thumb and solely geared toward creating iOS apps. Anyone can modify it for other operating systems and devices.
And they have already done this for the most popular data center operating system, Linux.
That’s the part that has IBM developers so excited, says John Ponzo, IBM fellow and the CTO for IBM MobileFirst partnership with Apple.
“Swift has currently been just been a device side story,” Ponzo says. But by making it usable with Linux, programmers can use Swift to develop server apps.
And that means Swift won’t just be attractive to developers writing games or other consumer apps.
It will become more appealing for corporate developers writing enterprise apps because they can now use it to write the code that runs on the server or cloud, as well as the code that runs on the mobile device.
In the past, if they wanted to write a Swift iOS app, they had to switch languages and development tools to write the server side.
Getting on the good side in the enterprise
Ultimately, this move will help Apple move deeper into the enterprise by grabbing the attention of corporate developers. They tend to gravitate toward languages that work well on servers, like the ones championed by Microsoft (C++ or .Net) or by Oracle (Java and its many offshoots).
And the choice of a language has a trickle effect, because each language lends itself to certain other technologies. In Swift’s case, it’s iOS.
But IBM hopes Swift will also encourage programmers to use IBM’s cloud.
IBM will have 100 enterprise Apple apps created through its partnership with Apple, all of them written on SWIFT, it tells us. These apps are being used to help sell iPads and iPhones to large enterprises, and sell the apps that run on IBM’s cloud.
Those 100 apps also means that IBM has made a huge investment in the language already, making it work with IBM’s technology, like its super smart analysing computer, Watson, Ponzo says.
IBM is going to release all of that work to the developer community.
“We are also posting about Swift on IBM DeveloperWorks website, sharing additional assets from IBM on building around Swift and we’re going to be very actively contributing to open source Swift,” Ponzo says.
If Apple is serious about growing its reach into the enterprise, and Tim Cook insists that he is, this is a brilliant way to do it.