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Nov 95 Viewpoint
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:11
Column Tag:Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor-at-Large

Well, as of this writing we still haven’t heard anything of substance from Apple about the MacHack Top Ten <http://www.machack.com/>. Sure, they released a statement about the top 5 items, but it was the same old “important future direction” verbiage we so often hear from Apple. From Apple’s initial response:

“Stay tuned...as we work out plans ”

“There’s a lot of support for this as an idea ”

“We are investigating what would be involved ”

“We’ll consider validating it ”

“We’re evaluating ”

“Any volunteers?”

“It’s a goal ”

“A topic of hot discussion ”

“ as that happens we’ll have a better vehicle ”

“Keep tracking our product announcements ”

[Thanks to Al Evans <al@powertools.com> for picking out the operative phrases.]

Funny, I didn’t think much of the whole Top 10 Developer Issues list idea at the conference, but Apple has committed to address the issues, so I find their lack of action disappointing.

It simply is not common practice for Apple to do market research on the needs and wants of Macintosh developers. Therefore, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Apple’s relationship with developers lacks a few items.

It’s time for Apple to start delivering solutions to other problems that have long plagued developers. Let’s talk about a few constructive ideas.

Information

At twenty-seven volumes and growing, Inside Macintosh is starting to represent a significant investment for developers, in terms of both time and money. Even so, developers could use much more. For example, as Sean Parent, Photoshop engineer and former Blue Meanie, recently said:

“Apple, what I want is a clear and precise explanation of every external public interface. I want to know what all the limitations, side effects, bugs, exceptional behavior, invariants, assumptions, version history, and supported parameter ranges are. Inside Mac gives me about 10% of that.”

Once we have a good start on that, publishing the information on the Internet and on cheap CD’s would make a great next step.

Overcoming limitations

TextEdit, the Menu Manager, the Dialog Manager, and the List Manager have long represented Apple’s strange affinity for living with arbitrary limitations. They have all evolved just about as far as they can. Maybe it’s time to offer up some new, improved toolbox managers. While it runs the risk of dying of not-invented-here syndrome, would it be that far-fetched for Apple to license some third-party solutions?

For example, imagine the benefit to developers should Apple decide to do away with the 32K TextEdit limit by taking Chris Thomas’ recent suggestion on Semper.Fi, “Just put WASTE in a shared library, license it for inclusion with System 7.6 and beyond, and be done with it.” Well, write some docs and test it a bit, too.

Bringing Apple applications into the 90’s

Where do we start on this one? OpenDoc support in the Finder and MPW? AppleScript support for Apple control panels, SimpleText, MPW, and others?

Attention

Developers need Apple’s attention. Apple needs developers’ attention. It all comes down to rebuilding the relationship between Apple and developers, but we’ll save some of this for later. Don’t forget to check out the web site for further developments, which Apple has promised by the beginning of October.

Picture, If You Will

Rarely does Apple put out advertising that we can all be proud of. Sure, there have been ads that made us feel good, but deep down we usually know that the ads are preaching to the choir. When was the last time we saw an advertising campaign that we all just knew sold oodles of machines? I don’t even know if the “great” 1984 commercial sold many machines.

To be fair, Apple used to have some good ads which managed to deliver the “wow!” factor. I recently thought that they’d made a comeback, but I was rudely surprised to find out that they were actually Compaq ads. I was shocked.

However, it’s all the rage to drive $10B companies from the back seat lately, so here goes. If I was in charge, I’d probably try a few wacky things. First ad campaign? Show developers writing software on the Macintosh. We don’t need nuns with pagers or corporate execs with surfboards, we’ve got real programmers putting together major-league products using Macintosh.

The Mac’s a toy, right? Fine, ask them, “What kind of toy builds products like Adobe Photoshop? What kind of company uses Macintosh to build products which contribute to a $598M annual revenue cash flow?” Coal miners riding in coal cars (“Got a PC? You must be unenlightened.”), dumb dads configuring a PC (how many millions of PC users are going to believe that they’re really dumb if they have a PC that gets the job done?), and a crazed maniac taping an 800 number up on a glass wall (who knows what this means!?!). Could really smart developers who build tremendously great software and make a gazillion bucks be any worse?

Trivia Bits

Why is Ticks one of the worst low memory globals to access directly on the Power Macintosh? Hint: is $16A divisible by 4?

Food For Thought

“Remove these items because they can cause clutter and use a large amount of memory: QuickDraw GX and PowerTalk.”

- from a product installation guide

 
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