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Notes from WWDC 2015: Restructuring the Apple Developer Program

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While the WWDC keynote focused on music and consumers, exciting changes were brewing for developers. In this article, Erica Sadun, author of The Gourmet iOS Developer's Cookbook,, begins the discussion some of the most earth-shattering changes introduced this week. Today's topic? Apple's developer program.

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On Monday, Apple kicked off the 2015 World Wide Developer Conference with a protracted keynote that introduced iOS 9, OS X El Capitan, and Apple Music. Of the two-and-a-half-plus hours of the keynote, perhaps a minute or two was devoted to developer topics.

While the keynote was light on developer news, the reality on the ground was not. Out of the spotlight, Apple introduced paradigm-shifting updates to developer tools (Xcode 7, Swift 2), to frameworks (GameplayKit, ReplayKit), and to the Apple Watch development paradigm (native apps).

One Program to Rule Them All

Chief among the changes was this: Apple quietly dropped separate desktop and mobile developer programs. On Monday, it introduced a single program to cover all platform destinations: iOS, OS X, Watch OS, and Safari. Developers ready to download the new beta toolset were met with an announcement, updated terms, and this new program.

"One membership, Unlimited possibilities" is Apple's new catchphrase for developers. A single membership enables you to publish apps to all its App Stores and to access pre-release components and documentation. Members were invited to transition their membership.

Some developers like myself purchased membership in both Mac and mobile development programs over the past year. Apple promises that remaining paid days will be added together and applied to the new program going forward.

For some developers, that means up to an entire year of extra time, although most will have just a few months added on. Many developers remain on a summer / autumn renewal cycle. I believe this announcement will add all of two months to my membership and double my unused technical incidents.

Team member roles are now consolidated for organizations. Each member retains whatever role offers the most permissions. While individual memberships aren't much changed, teams will want to review their rosters in case the Mac dev team and the iOS dev team need restructuring.

Device Testing for Free Tiers

Apple continues to offer both paid and free developer tiers in its program. One big component has shifted from the paid program to the free one. Until this week, free program members could not run software natively on mobile devices like the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. They were strictly limited to simulator builds.

Now with the new developer program, free members will be allowed to deploy to devices for individual use and testing. Apple writes, "Xcode 7 and Swift now make it easier for everyone to build apps and run them directly on their Apple devices. Simply sign in with your Apple ID, and turn your idea into an app that you can touch on your iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch…Program membership is not required."

Updated Developer Forums

Apple didn't just update their program yesterday. It introduced redesigned forums. The new discussion boards are co-located with the primary developer site and offer a completely fresh start for participants. The old forum has been archived, although you can still visit the site and search its contents.

You'll be required to create a new account, even if you've been active in the old system. Now is the time to jump in and claim your nickname. I managed to snag "erica" early.

Points have also been reset, giving everyone a fresh start and the option to build prestige and recognition.

Commitment to Openness

The refreshed program continues the open discussion policy first made public by developer Ole Begemann after WWDC 2014. This policy encourages collaboration, technical discussion, and peer support for pre-release material. You are limited from reviewing or publishing about the material as if it were final but you can discuss and write about the technology as it updates.

Apple writes, "You will not be bound by the foregoing confidentiality terms with regard to technical information about pre-release Apple Software and services disclosed by Apple at WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference), except that You may not post screen shots of, write public reviews of, or redistribute any pre-release Apple Software, Apple Services or hardware."

This policy has birthed an amazing Renaissance of developer support sites and newsletters. Standouts include the fantastic Swift InFlux github repository that tracks beta-by-beta language changes and updates and weekly magazines like iOS Dev Weekly, Mac Dev Weekly, and This Week in Swift.

Wrap-Up

The new paid program unlocks the doors to all tools and all App Stores for every member. The redesigned Developer program enables developers to access all pre-release material, not just for specific platforms. I imagine it will beef up participation in less popular arenas such as the OS X store.

The new system provides access to the latest sales and development tools including TestFlight and Analytics. It also provides enhanced community and developer resource sites.

Apple's program changes recognize that there are many developers but really only one Apple ecosystem. Whether you're developing for mobile or desktop, browser or app, unifying these arenas into a single developer program benefits all participants.

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