Apr 96 Crabbs Apple
|Column Tag:||Crabbs 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 its 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 weve had from the mother ship since Guy the K. was named Apple Fellow and Developer Evangelist last June. By now, Heidis tenure as the Vice President for Developer Relations should be well under way.
Heidis 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. Heidis always believed that you should sow good seeds in every corner, because theyll often sprout later, just when you could use the return favor.
The one negative from all this is that Shirley Stas, whod 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 Junes changes. Im 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. Shirleys 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, lets 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 Macs 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 (shes 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 - Heidis got a reasonable organization to build from. And building is what she must do.
Although Developer Relations cannot fix all the marketing and technical problems that Apple has suffered the last two years, its 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 its time Apple tries being a developer-driven company? Ultimately, its 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, its going to have to trust us more than its ever been willing to. Its 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 wouldnt 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 Apples 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 wont win all of what we want, and while Heidi will get Apple to open up and embrace us earlier and more often, well have to pick and choose our top needs, some of which Ive listed here for Heidis 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 levels 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 well have to endure) will come in a month at WWDC 96. See ya there.