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

OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 - Apple's lat...
OS X Yosemite is Apple's newest operating system for Mac. An elegant design that feels entirely fresh, yet inherently familiar. The apps you use every day, enhanced with new features. And a... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1.3 - The latest version of...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.19 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.5 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
Duet 1.2.2 - Use your iPad as an externa...
Duet is the first app that allows you to use your iDevice as an extra display for your Mac using the Lightning or 30-pin cable. Note: This app requires a $14.99 iOS companion app. Version 1.2.2:... Read more
Alfred 2.6 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
1Password 5.1 - Powerful password manage...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
GarageSale 6.9.2 - Create outstanding eB...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more
calibre 2.17 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 6.1.2 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more

New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your App...
New WOTA: U-Boat Compass ‘Wets’ Your Appetite for WOTA: Wolves of the Atlantic. Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Warship Solitaire Review
Warship Solitaire Review By Nadia Oxford on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: A WAR OF NUMBERSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Warship Solitaire might lack frills and looks, but it offers some thought provoking... | Read more »
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule...
Keep Track of Your Hectic Work Schedule With Shifts Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
All Star Quarterback Review
All Star Quarterback Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: PLAY YOUR PARTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Train your way to the Super Bowl in this free-to-play sports management game.   | Read more »
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign...
Sentinel 4: Dark Star Adds New Campaign and More Posted by Ellis Spice on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Wheel & Deal Review
Wheel & Deal Review By Tre Lawrence on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A simple arcade shooter that has a retro feel.   | Read more »
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW...
Join the NAVY in a Big New Update for WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Earthworm Alchemy Review
Earthworm Alchemy Review By Campbell Bird on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FEED THE WORMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Feed this funny looking worm and dodge bombs in this charming, free-to-play arcade game.   | Read more »
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfl...
Graphic Novel App netwars – The Butterfly Attack has Received Some New Episodes Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 27th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
DataVault Password Manager Review
DataVault Password Manager Review By Jennifer Allen on January 27th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SECURE DATA STORAGEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Store your passwords and other sensitive information safely, thanks to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Releases New Tranche Of OS Updates For...
Apple has released incremental bugfix and security updates for its most recent Mac and iOS versions. OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 Update Apple says this update includes the following improvements: Resolves... Read more
Samsung To Be Main Supplier Of A9 Chips For i...
Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reports that Samsung has beat out its chipmaking rivals, Taiwan’s Qualcomm and TSMC, as supplier of chipsets for the next generations of both its own Galaxy S6 and... Read more
Save up to $340 on iMacs with Apple Certified...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $340 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
AppleCare Protection Plans on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $105 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $244 $105 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
3TB AirPort Time Capsule on sale for $349, $5...
B&H Photo has 3TB AirPort Time Capsules on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2 on sale for $446, save $53
Walmart has 16GB WiFi iPad Air 2s on sale for $53 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online orders only, in-... 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
MasterCard Brings Contactless Payment, Apple...
MasterCard, the official card of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and the PGA TOUR are bringing the latest payment technology to the spectator experience with the introduction of contactless... Read more
Petitioning Dropbox For Mac OS X 10.4 and 10....
Last week Dropbox announced to its users that app support for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 will end May 18 — disappointing news for those of us who are still getting useful service out of older PPC Macs... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Tree Children's Center is hirin...
Apple Tree Learning Center is Hiring Preschool Teachers! Phoenix Childrens Academy is a national leader in the early childhood education industry and we are currently Read more
*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* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant- Retail Sales -...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Resellers store. The ASCs role is to grow Apple product Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.