Swift Playgrounds is an excellent entry point into the world of iOS app development, with a simplistic approach to teaching core programming concepts that makes it an invaluable tool for educators teaching the subject. But where is it heading?

The Current State Of Swift Playgrounds

First, don’t get scared away if you’re not a Swift / iOS developer. I do believe that even though the lessons are written in Swift and SwiftUI, you can apply the concepts it teaches to many other languages. 

I believe this is one of the strengths of Swift Playgrounds and it’s why it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to learn programming.

In 2021, Apple made Swift Playgrounds even more exciting when they turned it into a mini-IDE. This update allowed users to write fully functional apps and publish them directly to the App Store within Swift Playgrounds, giving us a glimpse of what an iPad version of Xcode could look like.

However, since then, not much has changed. Last year, many of us (including myself) were hopeful that Apple would announce significant updates to Swift Playgrounds during their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Or maybe even give us the fully featured iPad version of Xcode we’re all asking for. 

Even with the hopefulness that I had, I’m not surprised that those expectations didn’t materialize. So here we are still wondering what’s next for Swift Playgrounds?

So What’s Next for Swift Playgrounds?

There’s no denying that Swift Playgrounds is an excellent tool for learning programming concepts. It’s even possible to brute force your way to a fully functional production app (albiet a small and limited one) with just an iPad and Swift Playgrounds. However, if iPad app development is something Apple wants to experiment with further then we need a more powerful tool.

The big question Apple needs to answer is whether Swift Playgrounds will be the future of app development on the iPad or remain a simple tool for hobbyists and educators. 

Apple needs to be careful though because if they just start adding more features into Swift Playgrounds it risks losing the DNA that sets it apart from other apps – simplicity

Without simplicity, Swift Playgrounds would no longer be the accessable tool for teaching programming that it is today. It would no longer be a lightweight, fast app with a streamlined pathway from idea to production.

Can Swift Playgrounds Become the iPad Xcode We Dream Of?

It’s natural to wonder whether Swift Playgrounds could become something more than just a tool for hobbyists and educators. What if it could become the future of app development on the iPad? The iPad is a powerful device (arguablely limited by the lack of professional software tools like Xcode). 

So yes – it’s easy to dream of a world where you can develop professional-grade apps on the iPad, but reality is never as easy as our dreams make it out to be.

As I mentioned earlier – the biggest challenge is that Swift Playgrounds was not designed to be a full-featured development environment. It was designed to be a tool for teaching programming concepts. It was targeted at young programmers as a way to build familiarity with Apple’s tools.

The goal was simple here – build familiarity with Swift early so that when they move into the professional world Swift is the default choice.

So if Swift Playgrounds is to become a full featured IDE then Apple will need to balance the desire to add new features and capabilities with the need to keep the tool simple and easy to use.

Or… and I think this is the better solution. Use the lessons they’ve learned through Swift Playgrounds to develop a built-for-iPad version of Xcode. Something that does away with a lot of the bloat that the Mac version lives with. Remove legacy dependencies while adding the capabilities and features that are lacking in Swift Playgrounds.

Is that really too much to ask?

Bonus Question: Swift Playgrounds and Mixed Reality?

With the soon-to-be-launched Vision Pro and the idea that Mixed Reality is the future of interacting with a computer, I have wondered what that might mean for Swift Playgrounds. Could we see mixed reality tools get folded into Swift Playgrounds? What about Swift Playgrounds on the Vision Pro?

Okay – maybe I’ve gone off the deep end here – but it’s fun to ask these “blue sky” / “what if” questions. Right?

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