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IBM, Apple release Bluemix Runtime for Swift

IBM developers can now build apps with Apple’s Swift programming language.

The Bluemix Runtime for Swift hit general availability this week, about seven months after its introduction at IBM InterConnect. It allows developers to use Swift on IBM’s Bluemix platform to build and deploy native iOS apps — as well as, for the first time, server-side applications.

“This is a language that can work in the back-end side, too,” said Phil Buckellew, IBM’s vice president of mobile, in an April interview. “That’s why we’ve been investing in putting that capability in our cloud.”

Swift replaced Objective-C as the primary iOS programming language in 2014, and Apple made it available to the open source community in 2015. The latest version, Swift 3.0, launched earlier this month. It is the first major release under the open source banner, and not coincidentally, it adds support for server-side applications. IBM also helped develop Kitura, a new web framework for building apps with Swift in the cloud.

Swift is the 13th most popular programming language among developers — up from 16th a year ago, according to TIOBE Software, which issues monthly rankings.

“It’s not every day you see the birth of a new programming ecosystem like Swift is going to be,” said Mike Gilfix, vice president of IBM MobileFirst, in a Computerworld interview.

The Bluemix Runtime for Swift is a major part of the IBM-Apple partnership, which also involves the two vendors developing industry-specific enterprise apps for iOS. In addition, Apple plans to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into some of these apps using IBM’s Watson technology. Developers can also build AI into their own apps using the Watson APIs available in Bluemix.