Apple’s cloud-services plan emerges with Xcode Cloud developer tool

Xcode Cloud is a new CI/CD application service for developers working on Apple products, and it arrived roughly 18 months after the company started a big push to hire cloud developers.

Susan Prescott speaks at WWDC 2021

Susan Prescott, the vice president of worldwide developer relations at Apple, speaks at WWDC 2021.

Screenshot: WWDC

More than a year after Apple started turning heads in enterprise tech by hiring some of the best and brightest cloud engineering talent in the game, its cloud strategy became a little clearer at WWDC 2021.

Apple announced Xcode Cloud during its annual developer event Monday, a cloud-based continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) service designed for Apple developers. Xcode Cloud will allow developers using the Xcode development tool to build, test and deploy applications for any of Apple's operating systems via an Apple-managed service that runs on its infrastructure, rather than on a developer's laptop or in a data center.

Writing code is only the first step in getting any application out to users. That code has to be translated into a format that can be read by a computer, or "built." It then needs to be tested to ensure it will perform as intended, and it needs to be delivered to the end user.

When Apple developers write apps for iOS or macOS on their laptops, they often have to run the build process and those tests on their own machines, or on services like MacStadium or AWS's cloud-based Mac instances. Now they'll have an option to use Apple's computing resources to accomplish those tasks, which would allow them to work on other projects while those processes run or potentially save money on computing resources.

"Xcode Cloud simplifies the workflow by bringing everything together so as an individual developer you can focus your energy on being more creative, and development teams can collaborate more effectively," said Susan Prescott, Apple's vice president of worldwide developer relations, during the keynote event. Specific pricing will be released later in the year.

One of the trickier parts of writing an iOS or macOS application is making sure it will run smoothly on the wide variety of Apple hardware out in the wild. Xcode Cloud will allow users to run those different tests in parallel on Apple infrastructure, which is beyond the capabilities of laptop-based testing tools.

Application delivery is less of a concern in Apple's universe, given its tight control over App Store distribution. However, Xcode Cloud also promises to make it easier for developers to deliver near-final applications to a closed group of beta testers.

The new service itself will be available as a limited beta, with more details expected to be released at WWDC this week; a public beta will launch later in the year, Prescott said. Xcode Cloud is expected to become generally available next year.

Until recently, Apple was something of an afterthought in the cloud services realm dominated by AWS, Microsoft and Google. But around the end of 2019 and continuing into 2020, Apple began hiring some very prominent engineers with experience in cloud-native technologies like containers and Kubernetes, declining (in characteristic fashion) to elaborate what it had in mind for such an expensive hiring push.

Apple won't be competing with prominent CI/CD vendors like Jenkins, CircleCI and JFrog with Xcode Cloud, which appears to work exclusively for applications designed around Apple's products. This could make it a non-starter for larger development shops that need tools that support web and Android applications, but the announcement generated a sizable amount of positive feedback in the hours after it was announced in developer channels.


Ripple’s CEO threatens to leave the US if it loses SEC case

CEO Brad Garlinghouse said a few countries have reached out to Ripple about relocating.

"There's no doubt that if the SEC doesn't win their case against us that that is good for crypto in the United States,” Brad Garlinghouse told Protocol.

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Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said the crypto company will move to another country if it loses in its legal battle with the SEC.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

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The ruling could also endanger work on competition issues by the FTC and net neutrality by the FCC.

Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s decision last week gutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn’t just signal the conservative justices’ dislike of the Clean Air Act at a moment of climate crisis. It also served as a warning for anyone that would like to see more regulation of Big Tech.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.


Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

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Emotion recognition is a well established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

In fact, amid growing concerns over development and use of controversial emotion recognition in everyday software, both Microsoft and Google continue to incorporate the AI-based features in their products.

“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.


How I decided to shape Microsoft’s climate agenda

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Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer of Microsoft, told Protocol about the company's plans.

Photo: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Microsoft has set a number of lofty climate and environmental goals. Forget net zero: It wants to be carbon negative by 2030. Ditto for water.

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Brian Kahn

Brian ( @blkahn) is Protocol's climate editor. Previously, he was the managing editor and founding senior writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate site, where he covered everything from the weather to Big Oil's influence on politics. He also reported for Climate Central and the Wall Street Journal. In the even more distant past, he led sleigh rides to visit a herd of 7,000 elk and boat tours on the deepest lake in the U.S.

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