May 98 Viewpoint
Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Viewpoint
May 98 - Viewpoint
by Eric Gundrum
WWDC is Just Around the Corner
The week beginning May 11, thousands of developers from around the world will gather in San Jose, California for Apple's annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). My friends at Apple tell me that this will be a very exciting conference with much new information for developers.
For me, one of the best features of WWDC is how it revitalizes my enthusiasm for Macintosh development. Most developers I've talked with come away from the conference very excited about trying the new technologies, as well as working with the old. Meeting with thousands of like-minded people helps me reaffirm my faith in the technology, if not in Apple. With Steve Jobs at the helm, I expect this year's conference to be even more invigorating than usual. After all, Steve always puts on a great show.
In recent years, many developers have complained that WWDC has been full of too much marketing and not enough nitty, gritty technical content as in the old days; the technical value to developers had diminished in recent years. One possible explanation for the lack of technical detail is that Apple's marketing department had ultimate control over what sessions occurred and how the material was presented; ADR (including Evangelism and DTS) provided guidance, but when push came to shove, the developers lost to the people who think their audience will get board reading screen after screen of "gibberish" in a mono-spaced font.
My friends in ADR tell me that they have heard this message from developers: not only do we want to see what cool technologies Apple has for us, but we want to see how to use them. We want enough technical details to see what code we have to write. We want to see the APIs presented in the context of real, productive code. We want enough detail that we can go home and program our Macs without having to read the manuals, just as our users don't read manuals to use our products. (I don't mean to say we don't read manuals, but we don't, do we? At least not until we get into trouble.) Hopefully, Apple will deliver and we will have the best, most useful WWDC in many years.
The topics for WWDC should be very interesting. Apple's planning for WWDC has been going on around the same time they have been deciding the company's future direction, including what features will be in the next Mac OS release, what will be in the OS for Apple's Network Computer, what will be the future of the Newton hardware, and more. At Seybold, Apple made a big deal about WebObjects, ColorSync, AppleScript, and QuickTime. I'm sure they will give us more technical details at WWDC. With Apple finally making a serious commitment to ColorSync, every developer whose products shares color information (as in graphics) with other products should be using ColorSync. Apple's official recommitment to AppleScript raises the importance of developers making their applications scriptable. (See the MacTech Scripting issue in February, 1998.)
QuickTime 3.0 has been a hot topic among developers for many months. One of the most significant new features of QT 3.0 is that the Windows version finally offers the same features as the Macintosh version. To make this work, the QuickTime team implemented significant features of the Macintosh Toolbox on Windows and exposed them through the QuickTime API. This can make porting Macintosh applications to Windows much easier; a significant help to Macintosh developers trying to meet their customers' demands for cross platform solutions.
Most important to many of us will be the information about Allegro, Apple's next version of the Mac OS. I am anxious for several new technologies in Allegro, including custom Themes and Navigation Services. WWDC will be the first public forum in which Apple demonstrates many of these technologies. Developers will already be seeded with Allegro, so we will not have to wait a year or two as we did with technologies presented at previous WWDCs. I think Apple has finally realized how frustrated developers have become with Apple's past promises of cool technologies that never make it out the door.
By the time your read this, Apple should be making the WWDC schedule available through http://devworld.apple.com/. Hopefully, they also will webcast much of the conference, so developers who cannot attend in person can still learn from it. I'm sure those who do attend will be talking about it online shortly afterwards, sharing their impressions and what they learn. (Last year, John Norstad wrote an excellent report of the conference and posted it on his web site http://charlotte.at.nwu.edu/jln/. Maybe he will do so again this year.)
Apple's Java Getting Richer
A few months ago, Apple released MRJ 2.0, moving the Mac Java runtime engine up to JDK 1.1.3 compatibility. In this issue, we have several articles that take advantage of Apple's new MRJ, including a comparison of Macintosh Java IDEs, and one that offers useful information about coding for multiple platforms.
Java is a good object-oriented language. I often tell people interested in learning to program the Mac that they should start with Java. I encourage all of you to spend a little time exploring it's capabilities. Keep in mind that it is still a work in progress. Many of the support libraries, such as the graphical interface classes, still do not deliver on the promise of "write once, run everywhere." However, they are better than they were a year ago. With such a strong link between Java and the Web, the number of work opportunities for Java programmers continues to increase, especially for "servelets," Java-based server plugins. As other Java platforms become available, opportunities for Java programmers will increase even more. Exploring Java is not only fun, but it is worth the time.