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Oct 94 Editor's Page
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:10
Column Tag:The Editor’s Page

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation
in Boston

By Scott T Boyd, Editor

What We Did
On Our Summer Vacation in Boston

Well, so it wasn’t really a vacation. I wouldn’t wish setting up a booth in the World Trade Center without any air conditioning on anyone, especially as a vacation activity. [You have to understand, exhibitors aren’t really considered “people” and therefore don’t need air conditioning. - Ed. nst]

Actually, there was a good bit of fun. Strangely, though, the biggest parties aren’t always the best bet. This year at least one of the biggest almost completely succeeded in what must have been a deliberate attempt to screen out the t-shirt crowd. All that effort to have a museum full of suits? Go figure. Two much smaller parties made their mark. Mac the Knife hosted a nice little get-together. The attendee list spoke volumes about the quality of the Knife’s sources. The best party, though, had to be one where the party guests supported the party by buying t-shirts. Yes, it was the “System 7.5 Sucks Less” party, and the quality of the production bears witness to the kind of results you can get with a small team of hard-working, dedicated team members. Some good (non-engineering) folks at Apple had a hard time believing that “sucks less” was a good thing, but us programmer types enjoyed the good-natured ribbing. Strange, but there were a lot more t-shirts than suits at this party!

The show itself held a few surprises, and a lot of non-surprises. If there was a theme, it might have been “More of the same, only native!”

The best part of the show for us was the opportunity to spend time with a whole bunch of the people who build the developer tools we use. MacTech Magazine had two booths, one on the floor of the World Trade Center, and a tiny one in the Apple tent. The tent spot was right in the midst of a number of developers, right between Symantec and Metrowerks. During lulls, developer tool authors mingled, swapped stories, and gave each other a hard time. I got to watch as a worker on one side of us talked a guy from the other side out of a t-shirt, saying, “I promise I’ll wear it to work.” That’s something we’d like to see.

Random Show Observations

Much of what we saw in the way of developer tools has already shown up in print here, or will soon. On the other hand, some of what we saw on the show floor gave us some things to think about. For example, RAMDoubler’s success evoked exclamations like, “Isure would like to have a big hit and get rich!” from even the most modest of developers. Berkeley Systems had people standing five deep to get free inflatable goodies and watch fun screen “savers”. And, although WordPerfect was giving away umbrellas, we saw people standing in line not knowing about the freebies. They wanted to watch WordPerfect’s demo because, “There’s no way I’m going to put OLEon my Macintosh just to run the big, new version of Word. I want to see what I’m going to be using next” (we don’t make this stuff up).

Dayna was showing a cool demo of their wireless networking. Apple was showcasing just how many applications have gone native (although they didn’t bother to point out just how many of them were done with CodeWarrior). Computer Chronicles, the PBSTVshow, was taping segments all over the show floor. The World Trade Center food was pretty good, and not expensive, either. We expected airport quality and prices.

The one game that programmers kept talking about was Sensory Overload, from Reality Bytes. Everyone says it’s just like Doom. I (shamelessly) talked them out of a copy so we could do our duty and give you a quick review. In a nutshell, one programmer didn’t understand the attraction. Another programmer disappeared for several hours, then cursed me for letting him try it (probably because he couldn’t find anywhere to buy it yet).

Even though it was available before the show, going on the road gave Neil a chance to give his new 19.2 PowerPort modem a real workout. He’d been struggling with Apple’s modem “solution” for his Duo, and is pleased to report that he’s found the alternative. Neil does more e-mail or faxes per minute than anyone Iknow, and he grooved on Global Village’s performance and fax software. He says, “Faxing is now so much faster and easier, it isn’t worth comparing to Apple’s software. Check it out!”

Speaking of computers and phones, Collaboration Technologies was showing their still-in-development PhoneBridge® to everyone with telephony products, and kicking up quite a stir. PhoneBridge is a hardware/software combo which connects to your Mac via ADB, Sound In, and Sound Out. It can mix and match audio and knows all about phones. You can use it and your Mac as a most interesting phone. The best part? It’s a developer platform. I told a few friends about it, and each one immediately went and demanded that Collaboration take their money and give them a developer kit. It was great to see developers truly excited about a new technology! My favorite developer opportunity for it? To use it to mix in the background sound of your choice to create custom atmosphere for your calls (e.g. “Wow, this connection is really bad. I’ll have to call you back”). One developer is already working on a real-time Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) secure phone application for it. For more info, e-mail phonebridge@apple.com.

Hawking His Wares

Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist, gave a thoughtful keynote, taking us through the thought process of wondering whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. Along the way, he identified computer viruses as a life form (controversial, but not convincing), and used it to get a good laugh. His humor may very well have been the highlight of his talk. At a show like MacWorld, it wasn’t surprising to discover that a big reason for his keynote was his new CD-ROM multimedia version of A Brief History of Time, his 1988 best-seller.

Back in the Real World

Last week Idropped in on a Software Entrepreneurs Forum in Palo Alto for an OpenDoc vs. OLEdebate. Both sides brought their heavy hitters, and they played to a packed audience. Every time Igo to one of these debates, both side refine their approaches, using lessons learned in previous debates.

I keep finding myself looking at the issues being discussed. Is SOM the right object model? Do developers really need non-rectangular objects? Will the shipping technology “win” because it’s available and the other is not? Is a framework necessary, or programming components at the “bare-metal” APIlevel easy enough?

In this issue, we have a letter where the writer insists that MacTech Magazine rally behind Apple, lending our support because we owe our support to Apple, and so Microsoft doesn’t win. A debate along these lines is happening in comp.sys.mac.programmer.

I expect that most of you find at least some of these questions interesting, perhaps even worthy of debate. I have to wonder, though, are these really the issues you care about?

For example, how will you, the developer, decide whether you will support OpenDoc? Will it take convincing you that OpenDoc is the superior technology? Maybe knowing that it’s available cross-platform will be your deciding factor? Maybe SOM is what you’ve been waiting for? It could be that you’ll go with it because it’s an Apple technology, and you’ll follow Apple’s lead. Or maybe you’ll go with it because it’s not a Microsoft technology.

And how will you decide whether you’ll support OLE? Microsoft Office is wildly successful. Perhaps you want to play into that market. Of course, it’s shipping, and maybe you have to get to market now, and you simply can’t afford to wait. Maybe OLEis enough for your needs, or you’ve already got a Windows product, and it only makes sense to use the Microsoft technology that you believe will become dominant.

Here’s an issue we haven’t heard much about. What’s the debugging experience going to be like when you’re intermingling components from a number of different vendors? Is one technology more conducive to easy debugging than the other?

These and other issues will play into the decisions that countless developers will be making. The shape that the debate has been taking focuses on these issues.

Yet, there’s something we haven’t heard enough about, and that’s the business model. The debate we’ve seen so far has centered on interesting issues, but it’s time that the debate starts hitting on the issues that make the real difference for developers.

The biggest of these: how are you going to make money? A number of questions come to mind, and none of these has received the kind of treatment necessary for business planning at the small, third-party developer level. Will there be room for more than one kind of each component in the marketplace? How does a little developer get into the channels? Will makers of suites have their collection of components that are good enough, leaving little room for better components too gain entry? Will end-users really shop for individual components? Will Apple and Microsoft do something to help the small developer survive the transition?

Here’s another big question. Is it really an either/or choice? It’s easy to come away from these debates with the notion that you have to choose up sides. It’s also easy to come away thinking that you’ve got to make up your mind soon.

We’re not even sure why Apple keeps attending the debates. Maybe it’s just a way to get in front of developer audiences. Maybe it’s to give developers a reason to stall and not make a big committment to OLE just yet. Apple has a strong offering. It interoperates with OLE. We see little reason to position it as a competitor.

We’re going to take the time to examine both technologies and the business issues surrounding them. We expect the vested interests to take issue with some of what gets printed here. That’s why we invite all comers to make their case. And feel free to rebutt. But let’s get the debate focused on the needs of the developer. By the way, if there’s an issue you’d like to see addressed, let us know, and we’ll raise it with the players.

Prograph Conference

Prograph International is hosting the 2nd Annual Prograph Developers’ Conference October 14-16 at Apple’s R&D campus in Cupertino, CA. The conference will focus on new developments in client/server database tools and cross-platform technologies for PowerMac and Windows. (415) 773-8234 for more info on how you can spend three days soaking up Apple atmosphere while immersing yourself in Prograph.

Food For Thought

Ever wonder how Apple comes up with its licensing strategy and pricing? We had to scratch our heads over this one. To license QuickTime Package 2.0 for Macintosh costs $300/year, yet QuickTime for Windows 1.1 is only $250. What’s the message here?

Not Food For Thought

You know that glue we used to bind the CD into the August issue? We visited our printer and asked them what it was called. The technical term? Booger glue.

 

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