WWDC For its latest software development kit (SDK) for the forthcoming iOS 8, Apple has adjusted the platform's sandbox security model to allow apps to provide services to other apps running on the same device for the first time.
"This release is the biggest release since the launch of the App Store," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during his Monday keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. "It will give developers the capabilities and tools to make things they haven't dreamed of, and to push to a whole new level."
In all, the iOS 8 SDK contains some 4,000 new developer APIs, according to senior VP Craig Federighi, who was on hand to demo some of the new developer features.
One significant new addition is the ability for apps to publish the services that they provide, allowing other apps to use those features with their own data.
By way of example, Federighi showed a Pinterest app that offered a Share Sheet to allow users to easily post things to the photo-sharing site from within the Safari browser, and a Bing Translator app that offered one-click translation within Safari.
According to Federighi, this kind of extensibility doesn't put users' data at risk, because the system builds upon the existing iOS sandboxing model for apps.
"Extensions live inside an application's own sandbox with access to its own data," Federighi said, "but other applications can reach out by way of iOS's security mechanisms, talk to that extension, and an extension can even project UI right back into the originating app."
Along similar lines, Federighi said that in iOS 8, developers will also be able to extend the OS's Notification Center by bundling Notification Center widgets inside their apps. Users who install the apps will be alerted that new widgets are available and will be given the option to add them to the Notification Center.
Federighi added that iOS 8's new extensibility will even allow users to install third-party keyboards on their iOS devices, a revelation that drew applause from the WWDC crowd.
By default, he said, add-on keyboards will run inside the OS's most restrictive sandbox, with no access to networking. If they want to access the internet to provide enhanced functionality, they'll have to request permission from the user first.
Apple made a beta version of the iOS 8 SDK available for download on Monday at its developer website. The final release of iOS 8 itself is not expected until the Fall, when it will be pushed out as a free update for the iPhone 4s and later, the iPad 2 and later, and iPad Mini models. ®