Apple Debuts SDK for New Apple TV OS; Ships Gold Masters of iOS9 and WatchOS 2.0

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Apple has made a software developer kit available for its newly-announced tvOS, the platform powering the next-generation Apple TV. Img credit; Apple.com

Apple dropped lots of news today, and much of it should excite developers. Not only did Apple show off a brand new platform to target -- the Apple TV -- but it also released penultimate versions of iOS 9, watchOS 2.0, and OS X 10.11 El Capitan. 

Apple debuted a refreshed Apple TV today. The big feature of this revised set-top box is compatibility with third-party apps. The platform is based on iOS, but Apple calls it tvOS. "With the new Apple TV, you can deliver highly immersive apps on the big screen using the tvOS SDK," explained Apple. "The SDK includes many of the same frameworks and technologies as iOS, such as Metal, UIKit, CloudKit, and Game Center, so you can leverage your existing code to create rich games and apps that look amazing on the new Apple TV." 

The device, which ships in late October, includes a new, touch-sensitive remote control and deep Siri integration. Developers will be able to tap into the remote for contolling games and other user interface elements within their apps. For example, the remote has a accelerometer and a gyroscope for positioning. Apps for tvOS can tap into the power of nearby iOS devices, too, wich can also be used to interact with apps and games. Apple added new templates that use XML and Javascript, which can be used to frame apps for tvOS. This will let app writers use predefined layouts and Javacript APIs to speed up developement time. 

Developers can sign up for the SDK, but it doesn't look like the tools are available just yet. Apple suggests developers register by Sept. 11

The Apple TV costs $149 and $199 for 32-GB and 64-GB variants, respecitvelty. 

In addition to the brand new tvOS SDK, Apple has released the final GM of iOS 9 with support for 3D Touch. This is the new killer feature built into the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

"In addition to familiar Multi–Touch gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, you can now add 3D Touch-enabled actions that bring a new dimension of functionality to your apps," said Apple. 

People who buy the latest iPhones will be able to do different things with their smartphone based on how hard they press the screen. The latest GM of iOS 9 lets developers test this against their apps, which opens up an entirely new world for improving the user experience. For example, soft presses can be used to act as a "right-click" for secondary app menus, or deep presses can be used to select and prioritize on-screen content. 3D Touch is the most interesting thing to happen to iOS in years. 

The one potential drawback is that existing Apple hardware (read: iPhone 6, iPad Air 2) doesn't support 3D Touch, which relies on a wholly redesigned touch panel under the display. In other words, developers will need to wait until the new iPhones arrive (Sept. 25) before fully testing their 3D Touch apps. 

The iPad Pro, a big-screened tablet also revealed by Apple today, makes use of some of the new functions in iOS 9, such as split-screen multitasking. Developers can tap into these and other iOS 9 funtions to create interesting experiences for the enterprise-focused slate. The iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch screen, A9x processor, 8-megapixel camera, and 10-hour battery life. Pricing starts at a whopping $799. 

WatchOS 2.0 is primed to arrive Sept. 16 and Apple hopes developers rev up their wearable apps in time for the revised operating system. Apple has already detailed the features available in watchOS 2.0, but the highlights include native apps. With watchOS aboard, the Apple Watch will be able to run apps directly on the wearable itself, rather than through the iPhone. This opens new doors for developers. First, it should improve performance dramatically, but it also lets apps function without a nearby smartphone -- giving the Apple Watch and its owners new-found freedom with their wearable. 

Developers can learn more at Developer.Apple.com

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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