What it is: Chromebooks have been selling well to schools. That’s about to change with Apple’s new Swift Playgrounds for the iPad.
Given the choice between a Chromebook and an iPad, many schools opt for the Chromebook because of its lower cost and far simpler administration. Because a lower price and simplicity is so appealing, schools find little reason to buy an iPad when they can buy at least two Chromebooks for the same price. That’s why Apple introduced a new app for the iPad called Swift Playgrounds, which will be free.
The main idea behind Swift Playgrounds is to teach kids to code using Apple’s Swift programming language. Swift is just as powerful as C++ and Objective-C, but with much less complexity and risk of errors. To broaden Swift’s appeal, Apple made Swift open source so you can actually run Swift on Linux and Windows. Not only can you write Swift code in the Swift Playgrounds app, but you can also learn Swift using cartoon tutorials designed to appeal to children.
Apple hopes Swift Playgrounds will help make programming more appealing to people of all ages (especially school children) and make the iPad more appealing to schools because you can only run the Swift Playgrounds app on an iPad.
Now given a choice between buying a Chromebook at a lower cost and simpler administration or a more expensive iPad that’s also capable of teaching more children how to code, the choice won’t be as simple any more. Schools want to save money so Chromebooks will still be appealing, yet they also want to teach kids coding, so an iPad running the Swift Playgrounds app will also be appealing and more capable.
Some schools will undoubtedly still choose Chromebooks but many more will choose iPads running Swift Playgrounds. Since learning to code can be so crucial for children in schools all over the world, using an iPad with Swift Playgrounds can be an attractive beginning. Of course once kids learn to write Swift code on an iPad, chances are good a certain percentage of these kids will:
- Want an iPad
- Keep using Swift as their main (or only) programming language
- Use their Swift knowledge to create more apps for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS
Swift Playgrounds should help boost iPad sales to the education market (or to individuals who want to insure their children learn coding in a fun and entertaining manner), help develop a future generation comfortable with the iPad and Apple products in general, and create a foundation of future Swift programmers who will find it easy to write code for all of Apple’s operating systems in the future.
Even though Swift is open source and available for Windows and Linux, Swift will be the main programming language for all Apple products. As the iPhone continues defining the smartphone market and the iPad continues defining the tablet market while the Apple Watch defines he wearable computer market, the Apple TV defines the TV market, and the Macintosh grows in popularity among the dominant Windows PC market, knowledge of Swift programming means today’s kids learning programming on Swift Playgrounds will likely be users, if not programmers, of Apple products tomorrow.
As technically impressive Linux might be, it’s still mostly an operating system for tech-savvy users or novices who let a tech-savvy user set them up with a Linux PC. Windows may still dominate the PC market, but the PC market is fading in importance. If you want to be a programmer, you can choose Swift and be ready to program the next generation of products, or you can choose another programming language that won’t let you program the next iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch, or Macintosh as easily.
The choice is simple. Swift Playgrounds represents the future of helping kids learn coding and that means more support for Swift and Apple products in the future. Choosing another programming language or operating system means missing out on the future growth of Apple products. Today, all programmers learn C++. Tomorrow, all programmers will learn Swift if they want to stay up to date on the future.
For those programmers who refuse to keep up with changing trends, they can always stick to COBOL and FORTRAN instead and then wonder why they aren’t seeing as many opportunities for themselves as programmers who learn Swift.