Protocol | Enterprise

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.

Protocol | China

Beijing meets an unstoppable force: Chinese parents and their children

Live-in tutors disguised as nannies, weekday online tutoring classes and adult gaming accounts for rent. Here's how citizens are finding ways to skirt Beijing's diktats.

Citizens in China are experienced at cooking up countermeasures when Beijing or governments come down with rigid policies.

Photo: Liu Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

During the summer break, Beijing handed down a parade of new regulations designed to intervene in youth education and entertainment, including a strike against private tutoring, a campaign to "cleanse" the internet and a strict limit on online game playing time for children. But so far, these seemingly iron-clad rules have met their match, with students and their parents quickly finding workarounds.

Grassroots citizens in China are experienced at cooking up countermeasures when Beijing or governments come down with rigid policies. Authorities then have to play defense, amending holes in their initial rules.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. She can be reached at shenlu@protocol.com.


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Protocol | Policy

Google and Microsoft are at it again, now over government software

The on-again, off-again battle between the two companies flared up again when Google commissioned a study on how much the U.S. government relies on Microsoft software.

Google and Microsoft are in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

Photo: Jens Tandler/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to a new report commissioned by Google, Microsoft has an overwhelming "share in the U.S. government office productivity software market," potentially leading to security risks for local, state and federal governments.

The five-page document, released Tuesday by a trade group that counts Google as a member, represents the latest escalation between the two companies in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

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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.

People

Facebook wants to kill the family iPad

Facebook has built the first portable smart display, and is introducing a new household mode that makes it easier to separate work from play.

Facebook's new Portal Go device will go on sale for $199 in October.

Photo: Facebook

Facebook is coming for the coffee table tablet: The company on Tuesday introduced a new portable version of its smart display called Portal Go, which promises to be a better communal device for video calls, media consumption and many of the other things families use iPads for.

Facebook also announced a revamped version of its Portal Pro device Tuesday, and introduced a new household mode to Portals that will make it easier to share these devices with everyone in a home without having to compromise on working-from-home habits. Taken together, these announcements show that there may be an opening for consumer electronics companies to meet this late-pandemic moment with new device categories.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | Policy

The techlash is threatening human rights around the world

Some 48 countries introduced laws to regulate tech last year. But researchers say many of those laws are just attempts at censorship and surveillance.

In its latest report, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said, "We really see free expression and privacy as under unprecedented strain."

Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Governments around the world are seizing on widespread frustrations with Big Tech as justification for a spate of increasingly restrictive laws governing online speech, a new report finds, a trend that researchers say puts both free expression and the fate of tech companies' overseas employees at risk.

Over the last year alone, some 48 countries worldwide introduced — and in some cases, passed — laws to regulate tech companies, according to the latest report by Freedom House, a nonprofit that publishes an annual survey on internet freedoms in 70 countries. While those laws have often been passed in the name of promoting competition, protecting people's data and moderating offensive content, the report's authors say that, in many cases, these laws are merely thinly veiled attempts to force companies into censorship and surveillance.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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