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Apple reveals new developer technologies to foster next generation of apps

Here’s a bit of news that’s been under the radar but has the potential to bring new meaning to our apps. Apple has been pushing out notifications that show off new app features – like a new feature that compresses data – that are in the works.

Here’s a bit of news that’s been under the radar but has the potential to bring new meaning to our apps. Apple has been pushing out notifications that show off new app features – like a new feature that compresses data – that are in the works.

Apple has been pushing out notifications that show off new app features – like a new feature that compresses data – that are in the works. It’s a demonstration of how the company wants developers to think about apps in a future in which people still consume the same amount of information on their smartphones, but (for better or worse) never go through this mobile front door.

These are, in a roundabout way, revelations that apps will be changing, and we may have a choice about which ones we want to embrace. The main new way is one that Apple announced last year. Apple’s iCloud service has been used to compress photos and other data – much the same way that free voice calling service Skype compresses voice calls in order to save money on bandwidth. With iCloud, Apple is offering a free app called App Flex. It will let developers compress their apps using an existing code base that Microsoft already has. The service will be hosted on Apple’s servers, and provide a free USB disk that developers can download to save users uploading files to iCloud, for example.

Other solutions that Apple was first to the game with are worth considering. Google has a “zero space” feature called Storage Optimizer, which takes around 30 percent of your storage space for external storage. (In contrast, Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine preserves online information for 99.99 percent of its time on the Web.) Of course, Google offers this to developers free, as part of its Android platform.

Apple, it turns out, has more data compression software in the works. It plans to have an iOS update that will enable some sort of thinning down of the built-in apps. However, this doesn’t seem to be an entirely new system, just an update to one of many older algorithms. That still doesn’t completely explain why Apple would have, in effect, brought back an idea that was thought to have been gone forever.

When did the slimming of iOS apps become such a priority? In part, Apple’s algorithms have become so sophisticated that it no longer needs the additional storage space that older operating systems had. Apple already has far more efficient apps built-in to iOS (and, you could argue, Apple’s apps don’t have as much data as regular apps) than any rival, period. Given the growing pressure of bandwidth demands, it will only become more efficient.

But just like Google has brought back decades-old projects, Apple can do the same. When Google started doing this, pundits warned that it had basically killed innovation in the application arena, but clearly, this was just an effort to compete with new and better products offered by Microsoft and others. Apple’s experience so far has suggested that there are many ways to make users happy, without requiring a grand revolution.

Overall, it makes sense for Apple to save a fraction of their users’ data for external storage (whether flash or hard drive), since that’s what’s required in the long run. But the truth is that, beyond that savings, it’s hard to say what the impact will be. Apple may be “archiving” its apps, and putting them to good use, but there’s nothing in the way to imagine any applications that, for the first time in their lives, will be continually being re-configured.

No doubt, there will be new ones, of course. It’s not possible to know which will be good until they’re available. But the potentially dramatic changes being rolled out by Apple itself should give developers pause.

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