As the infamous story goes, in the early days of the initial release of the iPhone, a visionary Steve Jobs resisted the idea of allowing developers outside of Apple to write third party software to run on the device. Contrast this to last week, as CEO Tim Cook took the stage at WWDC 2016 announcing a record 2,000,000 (2 million) apps published on the App Store that have been collectively downloaded 130,000,000,000 (130 billion) times. There is no doubt that the App Store and its ongoing success is largely driven by the developers around the world who dedicate their lives to building software that is in many ways changing the world in which we live. Apps are shaping change in our society, fostering equal opportunities that never existed and are doing so in ways that no one ever knew could have been possible.
“When it first came out in early 2007, there were no apps you could buy from outside developers, and Jobs initially resisted allowing them” wrote Steve Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson
Each year for the past few years Apple has been producing short videos addressed directly to developers that are presented front and centre during the annual WWDC keynote. Either as a way of saying thank you, of acknowledging the passion, the care, and the endless achievements of developers or as a way of inspiring developers to keep creating amazing things. This year was no different.
These are a few of the videos Apple has shot and presented since 2009. Each year I go back and re-watch the previous years videos and I remember a few things like how far I’ve come, why I love being a software developer and the ways that the work that I do can enrich the lives of the people and the world around me.
This video is and always will be my favourite developer video. Back in 2009 the App Store was in its toddler years and neither Apple, developers or anyone else fully understood the true possibilities of the App Store and just how exciting, powerful and large it would become. In this video Apple interviews developers building games, medical apps and sports streaming apps about the ways that the iPhone SDK was beginning to change their industries.
During WWDC 2009 Apple also published several videos of developers and their teams telling their stories. In this short clip the creators of the Mac and iOS application ‘Things’ are interviewed about how they began, what they do and exactly why they do it. It reveals an interesting and insightful look into their process to re-imagine a desktop application on a mobile device.
Apple also interviewed American developer Steve Demeter the creator of a very early and successful iPhone game titled ‘Demiforce’. It looks at how building Demiforce enabled Demeter to start building mobile games full time and how the touch interaction model of the early iPhones brought an entirely different approach to gaming and user interaction.
In 2012 Apple peered into the ways that developers were using the power of the App Store to improve the lives of people with disabilities, engage struggling school children with learning and facilitate entirely new cultural experiences that bring people around the world closer together. This year Apple said “Thank you”.
Instead of directly focusing on developers, this year Apple led by example. Opening with a sharp and at the time, shockingly unexpected motion animation, Apple pieced together their rationale, their values and their way of doing the great work that they do. Listing out the emotional value of their products, “surprise, love, connection” and the harsh decisions that are made in the name of perfection, “there are a thousand no’s, for every yes.” Apple then proudly signed their work “Designed by Apple in California”.
Following on from the opening video, Apple closed the keynote with a similarly toned video. Showing the people that use the iPhone, and empathised with “what matters” – the non-material, non-measurable and most important value that the iPhone, and the software that developers create can provide to the people of the world. And again Apple proudly signed their work “Designed by Apple in California”.
In 2014 Apple introduced the keynote with a creative video that used unique visual perspectives, angles and illusions to speak to developers and to the people who “see things differently” choosing to instead of rush to be first, focus on building exciting products that people value.
Apple also shot a video that explored what it means to be a developer and the stereotypical visuals of a developer through the minds of the people who use their products and software. It examines the “magic” that goes into creating apps, and the ways that developers are “making magic” through the work that they do. Interviewing a diverse range of people who use apps, it names and shames the apps that people love to use most.
This video reveals the change of the App Store over time in comparison to the Apple’s video presented in 2009. While the possibilities of the App Store weren’t obvious then, in 2015 it was clear to Apple and the world that the iPhone and the App Store were a landmark change on humanity. This video reflects on the boundless growth of the App Store over 7 years, the ways it levelled the playing field for developers, and the ways the experiences developers are creating have enriched, empowered and changed lives. It considers Apps as powerful, and transformational forms of change driven by the developers that create them.
In 2016, Apple looked at the new ways that the Swift programming language is breaking down barriers for people to learn to code. It considers how programming is perceived as too difficult for many people, and yet people of all shapes, sizes, genders and backgrounds have the ability to learn to code and use the apps that they create to solve problems and make a change to the world around them. It aligns diversity with programming, and shows the ways that many individuals from different places and situations around the world can empower themselves through code.
Each year these videos are the part I look forward to the most. They tell a very real story about the ways developers can be drivers of change. These videos acknowledge developers for the work they do, inspire them to be better and more than anything they encourage people who aren’t developers to start learning and pursue the work that makes them happy.