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IBM brings Apple Swift programming to the cloud

The Apple Swift development language is growing more popular, and programmers can now use it to build and deploy iOS apps on IBM's cloud platform.

LAS VEGAS -- The new combination of Apple's Swift programming language and IBM's Bluemix platform will make it easier for businesses to build iOS apps.

IBM and Apple are expanding their partnership to extend enterprise app development and deployment to the cloud. Bluemix, IBM's platform as a service, will add Apple Swift to its list of supported programming languages, which already includes Java, Ruby, Python and others for cloud applications. The news, announced here this week at IBM InterConnect, makes IBM the first provider to enable cloud app development with Swift development.

IBM also released in preview the Swift Package Catalog, a resource that allows developers to share and discover Swift code.

The Apple Swift development language debuted in 2014. IBM's backing goes a long way in swaying more developers to use it, said Neeraj Medhekar, technology manager at PNC Financial Services Group Inc., based in Pittsburgh.

"It makes me want to learn more about it, and [test] it first and see if we can use it in a corporate setting," he said. "I like its ease of use, and it certainly seems very promising."

'Swift can really pay off'

There are already 11 million developers using Swift to build applications for iOS, making it the fastest growing programming language today, IBM and Apple said.

Partnering with IBM is one more step by Apple to broaden the market for Apple Swift development. Extending Swift to the cloud means developers can now use a single programming language to build both server-side and native apps. Apple open-sourced the language in December. Soon after, IBM released the Swift Sandbox, a website that lets developers build Swift server applications on Linux and run them through a browser.

"Swift can really pay off for Apple," said Tom Pruett, an IT security manager at Home Credit U.S., in Overland Park, Kan. "Developers want it to be easier and quicker to production with those apps, and that's what this can do for them."

But using Apple Swift development might not be as effective for other operating systems as it is for iOS, said Bob Egan, CEO and chief analyst of the Sepharim Group LLC, in Falmouth, Mass.

"It's still an iOS focus, which marginalizes the market," Egan said. "There are fewer and fewer CIOs that are interested in a single-platform solution."

Why use Apple Swift development?

Swift is easy to use, because it requires fewer lines of code for each given command than other programming languages, reducing the chances of coding errors.

"It's going to really speed up our code base," said Kenneth Heshka Jr., an IT support analyst for PotashCorp, a mining company in Saskatoon, Sask.

PotashCorp's developers already use Apple Swift, along with other languages, for applications they build in-house.

It's going to really speed up our code base.
Kenneth Heshka Jr.IT support analyst, PotashCorp

"It's definitely preferred by our developers," Heshka said. "It's going to come on more and more, as it will lead to less coding across each app."

Apple and IBM first partnered in 2014, when IBM became a distributor of Apple devices to the enterprise and agreed to develop 100 custom iOS apps. The development tools IBM announced at InterConnect, which are now in preview, mark the next step in this joint venture.

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