It was a big deal when Apple launched Swift, a more accessible, open source programming language, at its 2014 WWDC. Apple has not always been known for openness and Swift seemed an attempt to broaden Apple's accessibility. Well, at this year's WWDC Apple took another step in this direction with the announcement of the Swift Playgrounds app. The app will allow iOS users to learn the fundamentals of Swift in an interactive, game-like format. And the best news of all? It will be available free of charge.
In his keynote remarks Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that over 100 of the attendees were under 18 and with this decision Apple is making a clear push to engage this younger audience. This is not an entirely new concept. Other developers are engaged in similar projects. Hopscotch, for instance, has both iPhone and iPad offerings of a visual coding app. The Sphero Lightning Lab lets kids and adults power virtual robots with block-based coding.
If Playgrounds isn't a ground-breaking idea, it brings some key elements to the "learn-to-code" space: Apple's reach and the integration of an already established, and widely used, programming language. Put simply, most rivals teach kids about coding in general; Playgrounds teaches a particular, and widely used language.
The potential uses of this are extraordinary and Apple clearly has big ambitions. They want coding to be a required language in schools across the country, and the market share of the iPad, combined with the free Playgrounds app, should ensure that they're at the forefront of what may be a coding revolution. In a year, the 100 young developers Tim Cook mentioned in the keynote could be 200; in a decade, 500- and the scene shown to us in the closing video, of a girl named Keira flitting from playing in dinosaur costumes to doing serious coding, could be as common as breathing.