TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Cross Platform
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:3
Column Tag:Inside Info

The Platform Problem

Going cross-platform for the wired generation

By Chris Espinosa, Apple Computer, MacTech Magazine Regular Contributor

Listening to Microsoft pitch their cross-development environment for Macintosh reminds me that I’ve been working on solving the platform problem for over three years now.

In case you joined late, the “platform problem” is the dilemma that an industry faces when there’s one dominant standard, and a number of minority players who can’t unseat the dominant player because of the huge infrastructure supporting the standard. Having more than one platform makes it look like things are competitive, but the reality is that the minor players really don’t have a chance to gain on the dominant standard in the markets it dominates.

Intel vs. everyone else is a good current example; so is Windows vs. OS/2, Mac, UNIX, Novell, NextStep, etc. The dilemma I face is how to help developers continue to make superior products for the Mac OS, even though the customers and the industry infrastructure favor the Windows platform.

And you’ve seen a lot of attempts by Apple to solve this. Against DOS, it was less of a problem, because there were so many things in the Mac OS that just didn’t exist on the DOS side. With Windows, that differentiation is small enough that many customers perceive that the Mac’s difference is a liability, not an asset. So to bridge the gap between Mac and Windows, we’ve tried running the Windows OS on Mac hardware; porting the Mac OS to Intel hardware; writing a new cross-platform OS from scratch (Taligent CommonPoint); creating a complete application framework to encourage cross-platform applications (Bedrock); creating a cross-platform component application technology (OpenDoc); doing a cross-platform framework for OpenDoc (OPF); building cross-platform APIs (QuickTime) and media playback platforms (Kaleida Media Player); and the current favorite, licensing the Mac OS to clonemakers to expand the Mac OS market share. We’ve done these alone, with partners, and through joint ventures. Some we’ve shipped; others were killed before they got too expensive. (And a couple just got too expensive without being killed!).

Through all of this, Apple’s OS market share has remained at pretty much exactly what it was in 1983, after the ascendancy of the IBM PC and the beginning of the IBM clone market. Maybe cloning will change that (after all, so many smart people told us to do it ten years ago that they must be right!). But maybe there is something else that will change the rules and make this API war irrelevant.

Think about what we would like to be able to do. Write something once and deploy it on many platforms. Have a common programmatic interface, but take advantage of the native user interface of each machine. Integrate smoothly with the underlying OS. Be lightweight. Be accepted as a common industry standard, neither monopolized by a single company nor designed by a committee. Support all of the cool new technologies, like multimedia and networking. And be quick about it - we can’t wait until 1997 to have it running.

Well, there may be an answer: the World Wide Web.

I’ve been cruising the Web recently, and I think it’s remarkable how platform-neutral it is. By reading the file names in the HTML source code you can see which hosts are on a Windows OS, which are on UNIX, and which Mac; and it’s clear from the credits on some home pages that a tremendous variety of Sun, HP, IBM, SGI, DEC, Dell, Compaq, Apple, and other equipment is being used as hosts. The Web is an incredibly huge heterogeneous environment running a single application that looks the same to the end user, regardless of the combination of client and host.

This may be the great equalizer that renders the API wars obsolete. Already I can see a large number of applications that I use in my work life that could be implemented as a combination of FTP, Gopher, Archie, and WAIS services, front-ended by a home page. I’ve seen Web pages that are very nice forms-based front ends to Oracle, DB/2, and Sybase databases. When I use these pages it’s clear to me that they are fulfilling my cardinal rule of computing: they’re helping me get my work done without my noticing what technologies are being employed to do it.

It is said that on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog; well, nobody knows you’re a Performa, or an Indy, or a Presario either. This is crucially important. Microsoft made Windows a phenomenon by changing the definition of what constituted compatibility with the industry standard. Before 1992, being a clone of the IBM PC AT defined compatibility; after 1992, running Windows did. If in 1995 the definition of compatibility is “can browse the Web,” a huge emotional weight will have been lifted from the personal computer industry. The Mac can be industry-standard-compatible without running Windows!

Of course HTML and WAIS and Gopher aren’t an API. Can they grow to be one? Perhaps. Is the growth process in reasonable, safe hands? I trust the people who built the Internet more than I trust the people who built the Pentium. Can the Web software form a solid layer of abstraction that masks underlying differences in OS and hardware? For many applications, yes. For all? Of course not.

Nothing will ever eliminate the differences in processor opcodes, system calls, and implementation details that make cross-platform programming such a pain. Programmers get paid to bridge those differences elegantly. The point of the Web becoming the next platform is that the popular mind will be saved from having to worry that those differences make a difference. The fear of buying a minority standard will be greatly decreased if all computers are assured a high level of basic functionality and interoperability through the Web. Then we can let Mac be Mac, Windows be Windows, and turn Mac vs. Windows from a worldwide religious feud back into a simple design preference among engineers.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Monolingual 1.6.4 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. If you use your computer in only one (human) language, you... Read more
CleanApp 5.0 - Application deinstaller a...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Fantastical 2.0 - Create calendar events...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event details... Read more
Cocktail 8.2 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Direct Mail 4.0.4 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for OS X. It lets you create and send great looking email campaigns. Start your newsletter by selecting from a gallery... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.6 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.6 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Lyn 1.5.9 - Lightweight image browser an...
Lyn is a lightweight and fast image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it... Read more
Sublime Text 3080 - Sophisticated text e...
Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and prose. You'll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features, and amazing performance. Goto Anything. Use Goto Anything to... Read more
WALTR 1.0.11 - Drag-and-drop any media f...
WALTR is designed to make it easy to upload and convert any music or video file to an iPad or iPhone format for native playback. It supports a huge variety of media file types, including MP3, MP4,... Read more

Bio Inc's New Expansion is Infectin...
Bio Inc., by DryGin Studios, is the real time strategy game where you infect a human body with the worst virus your evil brain can design. Recently, the game was updated to add a whole lot of new features. Now you can play the new “Lethal”... | Read more »
The Monocular Minion is Here! Despicable...
Despicable Me: Minion Rush, by Gameloft, is introducing a new runner to the mix in their latest update. Now you can play as Carl, the prankster minion. Carl has a few new abilities to play with, including running at a higher speed from the start.... | Read more »
Dungeon of Madness (Games)
Dungeon of Madness 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon of Madness is an action game where you rotate tiles to create our own route. Help the hero by connecting the... | Read more »
Filters for iPhone (Photography)
Filters for iPhone 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Jump'N'Shoot Attack (Games)
Jump'N'Shoot Attack 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A mobile game for gamers! Join Louise Lightfoot, the legendary "Master of Jumping and Shooting", on her mission to save... | Read more »
Space Bounties Inc. (Games)
Space Bounties Inc. 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: SuperGameDroid: 4/5 "Satisfying futuristic RPG combat, high replay value, and a heavy dose of nostalgia make Space... | Read more »
Gamebook: Pocket RPG (Games)
Gamebook: Pocket RPG 1.0.11 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.11 (iTunes) Description: Walk into the Land of Lanthir Lamath ruled by wicked skeletons and fight for your life in a thrilling adventure.... | Read more »
Kids Can Mix, Match, and Catch with Tata...
Tatadada MixMatch, by Tatadada Ltd, is a mobile version of the classic game of mix & match. The game uses brightly colored creatures to train your children's pattern matching skills and hand-eye coordination. It's aimed at children around age 5... | Read more »
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game (Games)
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game 1.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.2.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: March 16-20, 2015
Spring Roars In At 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Logitech Says MX Master Is Its Most Advanced...
Logitech’s new MX Master Wireless Mouse incorporates the best of Logitech’s many computer mouse innovations into a striking hand-sculpted design. The company claims that the MX Master creates a new... Read more
Save up to $300 on a new Mac, $30 on an iPad,...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store lowered prices on Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs recently, with models now available starting at $679. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and... Read more
Mac Notebook Evolution; A Desktop Replacement...
More often than not right from the beginning, Apple’s Macs have tended to skew toward small. The original Macs were called “compacts,”, and notwithstanding a few exceptions like the honking Big Mac... Read more
13-inch 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air (Apple refur...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Airs available for $759 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $240 off original... Read more
YEP! Alternative Browser for iOS Now Supports...
Pfaeffikon, Switzerland based Power App AG has announced the release of an update to their Yep! Web Browser (v1.3.0) for iOS8 iPhone and iPad. Yep! hit the App Store shortly after the release of iOS... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $250 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has leftover 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1098... Read more
Clearance 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has MacBook Airs on sale for up to $180 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $789.99 110 off original MSRP - 11″ 256GB... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $100 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $199, $100... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - D...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Systems Engineer - Pre Sales, Educat...
…is responsible for proactively providing technical expertise to drive sales of Apple solutions into assigned accounts. The SE architects, validates, and assists in Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.