Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, New Relic’s weekly roundup of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and the myriad of other issues that influence modern software.
This week, our top story concerns Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference and the company’s young, wildly popular Swift language.
TWiMS Top Story:
Apple’s Swift Takes a Huge Leap Forward—Business Insider
What it’s about: Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week and software, much more so than devices, took center stage. Apple’s increasingly popular Swift language was a particular star, as the company announced Swift 2.0 and its plans to make Swift open source later this year.
Why you should care: Apple and open source aren’t exactly synonymous, so it’s kind of a big deal that the firm will hand the keys—or at least a copy of the keys—to Swift over to developers in the hopes of turbocharging the language’s growth. The news comes in concert with Swift 2.0, which Apple says will improve error handling, SDK interaction, availability with older operating systems, and other features. And Swift was only one way software stole the WWDC 2015 show: Apple also previewed iOS 9, with cool new multitasking features; watchOS 2, the second major release for the nascent Apple Watch that promises vastly improved apps; and OS X El Capitan, the next branch in the OS X family tree, which Apple touts as a step forward in Mac system performance and speed.
- Swift 2.0—Apple Developer Blog
- Apple Tries to Outflank Google, Smaller Rivals with Developers’ Pitch—USA Today
- Swift Goes Open Source at WWDC 2015—ZDNet
- Apple Conference: No New Gadgets, But a Lot of Software Tweaks—Newsweek
What Is Code?—Bloomberg Businessweek
What it’s about: In a mammoth 38,000-word essay that took the interwebs by storm, author and programmer Paul Ford tries to explain to the suits what it is, exactly, that you do here. In the process, people who live, eat, and breathe code get some great insight into the minds and misunderstandings of everyone who thinks Python is just a really big snake.
Why you should care: You mean aside from the sheer audacity of the thing? (You might need to take a couple of vacation days to read the entire tome.) For non-technical business executives who’ve been faking it when it comes to technology strategy—you know who you are—this should be required reading for better understanding of the business and culture of software development. So why would developers read it? Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel tells Poynter.org: “If instead of answering ‘Why haven’t we picked a coding language yet?’ for the 10th time they can thrust this piece under an executive’s nose, we’ll have done them a great service.”
Better still, the brilliantly written piece could help developers better understand how they sound to non-technical higher-ups and coworkers—and maybe even prompt them to think a little more critically about how they themselves work and act. This is a tour de force that’s likely to be passed around and discussed for a long time to come.
What it’s about: Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba is planning to go head-to-head with Amazon in the United States—but it’s not going after online shoppers. Rather, the company’s Aliyun cloud computing unit is partnering with the likes of Intel and others to expand its presence in the public cloud market without needing to build its own data centers.
Why you should care: The race to near-zero public cloud pricing may have its newest big-time competitor, one with the resources necessary to eventually go toe-to-toe with today’s leaders. Alibaba’s entry into an already cutthroat cloud field that includes Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and a host of other options, could spur more price cuts, a good thing for budget-conscious organizations looking to make good on the cloud’s long-standing selling point of potential cost reductions relative to running your own data centers. Alibaba hasn’t announced pricing yet, according to CNBC’s report, but its initial focus on small and midsize businesses clearly suggests a price-conscious strategy.
What it’s about: There’s growing evidence that tight partnerships between IT and marketing, starting with strong relationships in the C suite, help foster bottom-line business success.
Why you should care: It’s tempting to sometimes think of everyone else in the company as monoglots who don’t understand the inner workings of the software that drives the business. (See above: What Is Code?) That attitude isn’t getting you or your company anywhere, though. Rather, organizations with “embedded IT”—IBM’s most recent C suite study, for example, included one CIO who shifted all of her senior directors out of IT and into other departments to better integrate with them—are best suited to meet the demands of modern business. And that kind of alignment starts at the top: “The more I can help my [marketing] counterpart and take care of the technical data and information details, the more he can focus on the creative side of the business and executing and fulfilling on leads and building the brand,” Organic Valley CIO Frank Dravis tells TechTarget.
Bottom line? If your company’s IT department is always tangling with the rest of the company, you all have a big problem.
The Untold Story of Microsoft’s Surface Hub—Fast Company
What it’s about: Harry McCracken tells the not-so-recent history of Microsoft’s recently unveiled Surface Hub and the engineer that led its journey from cool theory to production reality.
Why you should care: In an industry that typically stresses fast, faster, and fastest, sometimes truly innovative technology product development requires ample doses of patience, persistence, and time. General Manager Jeff Han’s obsession with multi-touch technology and “upright productivity” has helped turn Microsoft’s Surface Hub into an actual product on the assembly line—and other than the LCD screens, Microsoft’s doing all the factory work itself in its Wilsonville, Ore., facility. Surface Hub turns mobility’s typical shrink-ray effect inside out, applying touch and other mobile-device interface mainstays to much bigger office functions, with whopping 84-inch and 55-inch models currently in the works.
It’s far from a guaranteed commercial hit, but once you’ve swiped across a Surface Hub, you may never be satisfied with dry-erase markers again. As one Microsoft employee noted in a self-referential comment written on a conference room whiteboard: “This is obsolete technology.”