A software development kit (SDK) is a set of tools provided by the manufacturer of (usually) a hardware platform, operating system (OS), or programming language. SDKs help software developers create applications for that specific platform, system, or programming language.
An SDK is like a toolbox.
A carpenter might use a toolbox that includes tools such as a hammer, saw, and screwdriver. The carpenter can then use these tools that are part of the toolbox to build their project, whether it is a bird house or a mailbox.
An SDK is just like a toolbox but for software. The SDK typically includes a set of libraries, tools, and documentation that make it easier for the developer to create the software by providing pre-built components that can be used as building blocks.
So just as a carpenter uses a toolbox to build their birdhouse, a software developer uses an SDK to build their product as well.
A software development kit (SDK) is a collection of software development tools in one installable package.
It's one thing to know what an SDK is, but that is worthless if you don't know why you should know what an SDK in the first place. Let's break down the importance of this tech term based on two high level categories. We'll walk through an explanation as well as provide a score, 1-10, that shows you how much you should care about an SDK.
The first will be if you do not have a product yet. This means that you don't have a physical product. Maybe you're in the ideation phase, or maybe you're almost ready to start development. Whichever it is, we'll get into why a software development toolkit is important and why you should or shouldn't care about it if you do not have a product.
If you don't have a product, you don't need to worry too much about what an SDK is or how it works. Keep focusing on your ideation and customer discovery!
The second category is if you do have a live product. Maybe you just launched your business or maybe it's been live for years and you're continuing to improve its quality. Regardless of the scenario, if your product is live, a software development toolkit carries a different weight.
You should care about a software development toolkit if your developers want to build more efficiently. SDKs should be provided by the operating systems that you are leveraging, so be sure that your developers are familiar with the proper SDKs to speed up your product development.
So you know what an SDK is, by definition. You know if you should care about it or not depending on your situation as a business/company/product. To dig in deeper, we will walk through some examples so we can make sure you really have a solid grasp on a software development toolkit.
There are many different types of SDKs available, and the specific components that are included in an SDK can vary widely depending on the platform and the goals of the software being developed. We'll walk through five different types of SDKs and what they may include:
Mobile SDKs are used to build mobile applications for platforms like iOS and Android. They typically include libraries and tools for developing user interfaces, accessing device features (i.e. camera or GPS), and testing and debugging the app.
Game SDKs are used to build video games (hence the name). They include libraries and tools for rendering graphics, playing audio, and handling user input.
Cloud computing SDKs are used to build applications that run on cloud computing platforms (again, hence the name). They provide access to the services and APIs offered by the platform being used.
Web development SDKs are used to build web applications and typically include libraries for building user interfaces, accessing web services, and storing data in the browser.
Hardware SDKs are used to build software for specific hardware platforms, such as microcontrollers or single-board computers, and include libraries and tools for interacting with the hardware.