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Apr 96 Crabbs Apple
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:4
Column Tag:Crabb’s Apple

Developers Finally Get a Break

By Don Crabb

The last few months have been tough ones for the Mac developer community. As I am writing this, (1) Sun has made a bid to merge with Apple via a stock swap (a good thing, I hope it’s happened by now), (2) Apple has been pronounced dead by the know-nothing general press (if you ever thought BusinessWEEK would get a clue, you can forget it once and for all), (3) more than a thousand Apple employees have been let go (and while many needed letting go, badly, many were tight with developers), and (4) Apple lost its acting VP of Developer Relations, Shirley Stas.

But the good news for us is that Shirley was replaced by Heidi Roizen, a name well known to the savvy developers out there, and as good a bit of news as we’ve had from the mother ship since Guy the K. was named Apple Fellow and Developer Evangelist last June. By now, Heidi’s tenure as the Vice President for Developer Relations should be well under way.

Heidi’s philosophy, often practiced while the president of T/Maker, was that companies and individuals ought to help others in our industry and make as many friends as possible, especially when it can be done without compromising your beliefs. Heidi’s always believed that you should sow “good” seeds in every corner, because they’ll often sprout later, just when you could use the return favor.

The one negative from all this is that Shirley Stas, who’d been the acting VP for many months and who had done an excellent job, is now out of that job. Although she was not acknowledged by Apple in the press release for Heidi (and shame on Apple for this slight), Shirley has busted her hump to get DevRel back on track and reorganized following last June’s changes. I’m not sure what future role Shirley will have at Apple, but if Apple has a brain in its corporate head it will find the right place for her in the organization. Shirley’s not flashy, but she did right by developers and she should be rewarded for that.

All Heidi, All the Time

Heidi Roizen should not be a new name to you. But in case it is, let’s give her record the once-over. She co-founded and ran T/Maker Company, one of the first Mac software developers (back when development was done in Object Pascal on a Lisa! - and we complain about our development environments today...). T/Maker shipped its first Macintosh title in February, 1984, within a few weeks of the first Mac’s ship date.

Besides running and eventually selling T/Maker, Heidi also has been the president and a board member of the Software Publishers Association, as well as a someone influential within the software marketing community. In short, Heidi understands both developer issues (she’s been there) and marketing issues (ditto). Since Developer Relations now includes all of the developer arms - Evangelism, Developer Support, Developer Marketing, Developer Press, Developer University, and International Developer Relations - Heidi’s got a reasonable organization to build from. And building is what she must do.

Developer-Driven Excellence

Although Developer Relations cannot fix all the marketing and technical problems that Apple has suffered the last two years, it’s now poised to be what it should have always been - the key organization in the company. Apple has tried being a marketing driven company and bombed. It has tried being a technically driven company and bombed. Perhaps it’s time Apple tries being a developer-driven company? Ultimately, it’s Apple developers (for MacOS and whatever comes after it) who will put the company back into the good graces of customers and help dispell the doom-and-gloom “analyses” of the general press.

But for Apple to become developer-driven, it’s going to have to trust us more than it’s ever been willing to. It’s got to get us on board much faster when it comes to new technologies. We should have been pre-alpha testing Copland, for example, in large numbers, and with our input really being parsed, instead of waiting for our DR1s to dribble in only to the biggest developers.

Apple needs to start using us as a resource, not as a revenue source. Apple needs to develop the right mechanisms by which we can be made part of the extended internal developer teams for all key Apple technologies. I can imagine what might have happened with important Apple technologies, like AppleScript and PowerTalk, if only the right developers had been brought onto the teams with real authority.

Had AppleScript, for example, been developed and marketed with the likes of Cal Simone (of Main Event Software and its Scripter) on the team, and with real access to the product marketeers, we wouldn’t be wondering today why Apple had squandered its lead in user scripting. Or why we have to wait for Copland before we get a native version of AppleScript. You can go down the list of Apple core technologies over the past several years and make similar cases.

Heidi is ideally positioned to address issues like this. Coming to Apple as an influential outsider, she sees the benefit of having other influential outsiders (who also bleed six colors) as part of Apple’s extended family. And with her outside track record she should have the clout to get a good hearing for these sorts of developer partnerships from Dave Nagel.

Battles and Wars

But we won’t win all of what we want, and while Heidi will get Apple to open up and embrace us earlier and more often, we’ll have to pick and choose our top needs, some of which I’ve listed here for Heidi’s perusal:

• Make entry-level developer support free, to encourage more Generation-Xers to develop on the Mac.

• Lower the prices for all other developer support levels and increase each level’s exposure to Apple engineers.

• Cut the price of developer tools to the bone. Sell ’em for cost if necessary.

• Work with MetroWerks and your other tool vendors to help develop tools for differentiating our common code base products across platforms (MacOS, Newton OS, Pippin OS, etc.).

• Partner with your MacOS cloners to provide entry to the Apple developers program through them.

• Start now on the next generation of developer tools that will be operational in ten years.

And this list just scratches the surface of what Developer Relations under Heidi Roizen should be able to provide us. A good test for how much we can expect and how fast (and how much of the old Apple corporatespeak we’ll have to endure) will come in a month at WWDC ’96. See ya there.

 
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