Guest author Alex Salkever is head of product marketing and business development at Silk.co. This piece first appeared on his Tumblr.
At the 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple released an entirely new programming language called Swift. It is a higher level coding language that aims to provide the power of Objective-C with the flexibility of higher level scripting languages such as Node.js or Python.
In theory, Swift should make it far easier to write iOS apps that run as fast or faster than those scripted painstakingly within the more cumbersome, time-consuming and risky confines of Objective-C. If Swift delivers even partly on its promise, it could be huge boon for companies that want to build iPhone apps. iPhone developers have been the hottest ticket on the global software market for a number of years.
The good ones command nose-bleed level hourly rates of $250 to $300 per hour. Starting salaries for entry level iOS coders that have passed rigorous coding challenge tests run from $120,000 per year north. Senior iOS devs have commanded $200,000 from larger enterprises seeking their experience.
Why the high prices for iOS talent? Supply and demand. It’s very hard to learn Objective-C well enough to write compelling, high-performance apps. Learning how to manage memory in iOS and how to best take advantage of the capabilities of the hardware takes time, effort and a deep understanding of Objective-C.
A Swiftly Tilting Labor Market
Enter Swift, which—again, if it works as Apple clearly hopes—will with one stroke dramatically lower the bar for writing an iPhone app. The language is designed to make it much easier for coders to write iPhone apps both quickly and well. That should rapidly expand the market for coders with iPhone skills; in turn, the cost of building iPhone apps, which is primarily a function of wages for developers, will fall.
That’s bad for existing iPhone developers, but good for everyone else. Apple will enjoy a rush of new iPhone apps entering the market.
Startups and enterprises building iPhone apps will be able to pick from a wider talent pool, and in the not-too-distant future, they’ll build those apps with developers paid mere mortal salaries in the low six figures. The only folks who don’t win here, in addition to the iOS developers who have been making huge bucks, are the iOS education programs that charge devs top dollar to upgrade their iOS chops and move up the coding salary ladder.
For consumers, too, this is a big win. Better apps. More apps. Cheaper apps. Apple, too, may hope that the switch to Swift, which might turn out to be an easier development environment than Java for Android, could help Cupertino reclaim lost handset market share. Check back in on Swift in six months for a more complete verdict.
Lead image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee, CC 2.0