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July 92 - A Windows Programmer's Journey into MacLand

Postcard From Windows Land - A Windows Programmer's Journey into MacLand

James Plamondon

Yes-the rumors are true. I am now employed by Microsoft Corporation, of Redmond, WA. I have not "been seduced by the Dark Side of the Force"; nor have I "joined the Evil Empire," as some of my erstwhile friends have suggested. I just took a job that seemed to be a better fit for me than I thought I could find elsewhere.

Look at it from my perspective. Microsoft said "In this job, you'll have to organize user's groups, write sample code for magazine articles, and go around giving presentations -does that sound interesting to you?"

"Let me get this straight," I asked, hesitantly. "You guys want to pay me to do what I now do for FUN, on the SIDE?"

"Yes," they said-so I did, too.

And it's not hard to get excited about Windows. The installed base is roughly as big as that of the Mac, and its potential market is much, much bigger. Those who claim that the Mac is a lot better than Windows technically were right once, but are getting less right with each passing day. (You'll note that whenever I said anything nasty about Windows in previous articles, I always mentioned that Windows was catching up, fast-and it has been.) So there's money in Windows, and with my big family to feed, I can't ignore that reality-and wouldn't want to.

Technically, Windows' rate of improvement has been phenomenal, and shows no sign of slacking off. A lot of the features Apple is talking about adding to the Mac-dynamic link libraries (DLL's), incremental linkers, etc.-have existed in Windows for some time. Windows' Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) is roughly equivalent to the Mac's Edition Manager, though each have their advantages and disadvantages (e.g., the Edition Manager works better over a network, but OLE supports embedded objects). I saw nothing at the WWDC that made me question my job decision, given what I also know of Microsoft's plans. (If you want to know more about the future of Windows, come to Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in San Francisco, July 6th through 8th [call 1-800-227-4679]. Apple will be there; shouldn't you?)

So, even as the political world drifts towards a uni-polar world, in which the US has the only big stick in the playground, the computer industry is becoming bi- and even multi- polar. Microsoft implements some of its features, such as OLE, on the Macintosh; Apple implements some of its features, like QuickTime, on Windows. The lines between operating systems are getting fuzzier.

Given this trend, it seems clear that spending a few weeks or months learning about Windows will benefit you significantly down the road. I wouldn't count on Apple's cross-platform application framework to hide all of the platform-dependent details from you. Can you imagine trying to write a MacApp application without first knowing the Toolbox? If only to trace into and understand what the framework is doing (possibly for debugging purposes), you need to have some grasp of the platforms on which it runs, and how they work.

To paraphrase the medieval motto of Poland, "The Mac is Not Yet Dead"-and it may never die. But in this era of peaceful coexistence, you might want to hedge your bets (and feather your nest) by learning just exactly what the other side has to offer. n

 
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