WatchBench, which was released in the Apple iTunes store on June 5, allows enterprise developers to create working prototype apps for Apple Watch without having to code the apps using Apple's iOS tools and languages, Dan Bricklin, CTO of Alpha Software, told eWEEK.
"In an hour or two, they can throw something together, even if they are not an iOS developer, and without having to spend days becoming proficient on that part of iOS," he said.
Developers can use WatchBench to build functional prototypes that interact with remote data services, have working buttons and menus, and can look quite polished so they can test app ideas before companies commit to spending lots of money to actually build them, said Bricklin.
The idea for WatchBench came to Bricklin because it looked like wearables were going to be important in business, he said, and because the Apple Watch is pushing the limits of that potential.
"It looked like a good device to experiment with and to see how it could be good for business," said Bricklin. Prospective users include workers in warehouses, field service workers and others who don't sit at a computer at a desk but who need to have access to information, he said. Rather than using their hands on a device, they could use a smartwatch on their wrist to get information they need while they do their jobs with their hands.
"[These kinds of apps] need to provide some simple interactions like 'I completed that step, so what's the next step,'" he said. "Businesses are filled with jobs like that."
Typical uses for WatchBench could include companies that want to experiment with connecting their Apple Watch apps with external servers so they can pull out data from a database, such as inventory figures, product details or shipping status, he said.
To do that, a developer can use WatchBench to prototype those connections rapidly.
"WatchBench lets you build and test the types of applications that businesses would need to have to see if Apple Watch will be valuable to them," said Bricklin. "Businesses are all about custom code. This lets them do that."
Once the app experiments are proven in WatchBench, then companies can move to pay someone to develop them fully, he said.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8, Apple revealed that a new version of the Apple Watch operating system will come out soon, called watchOS 2. Bricklin said Apple has already said it will run all existing Apple Watch apps, such as WatchBench. "But watchOS 2 will bring new capabilities, and we'll look at and see what we need to build into our main product."
Bricklin is best known for co-creating VisiCalc, the pioneering spreadsheet program back in 1979, as well as Dan Bricklin's Demo Program in the 1980s. More recently, he is the author of the popular Note Taker HD app for the Apple iPad.
WatchBench is a 1.1MB download and requires iOS 8.2 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.