Surprise, surprise: At developer conference, Apple releases slew of new developer tools

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As you might expect from an event whose name is, after all, the Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple on Monday announced a slew of new tools for people who write software for iOS and OS X. That will, in turn, mean new features in the software you use on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Specifically, the company released a new version of its software development kit which introduces over 4,000 new programming interfaces, which developers can use to build their apps.

Those new features include a new Extensibility API that allows apps to share functionality and data without user intervention without compromising the safe confines of iOS’s software sandbox. Its introduction will, for example, make it possible for third parties to provide custom filters directly in Photos, or to translate a Web page directly in Safari at the tap of a finger.

Apple is also opening up Touch ID to all developers, allowing third-party apps to use the company’s fingerprint technology to secure all kinds of information. During the presentation, Apple vice president Craig Federighi stressed that information about a user’s biometric features is never disclosed to third parties, and continues to remain stored on the A7 chip’s “secure enclave.”

In the realm of home automation, Federighi unveiled HomeKit, which provides an integrated ecosystem through which users can interact with compatible devices like garage doors, locks, lighting systems, and climate control appliances. HomeKit appears to be designed as a cohesive umbrella under which various systems can be brought together to take advantage of iOS’s ecosystem; for example, once you connect all your external devices, a simple Siri command like Time for bed could automatically turn off the lights, check that all the doors are locked, and reprogram your thermostat for nighttime temperatures.

Among the remaining changes, Apple is introducing APIs that let developers build games for iOS with ease, and adding a completely new programming language, called Swift, alongside the venerable Objective-C. While a less-significant change from a user’s perspective, Swift comes with a number of features that have the potential to drammatically improve the productivity of developers—which are likely to bring even more exciting apps to market as a result.

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