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Jun 99 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Jun 99 Viewpoint

by Nick DeMello

The convention months are back!

Last month was Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, Apple's chance to talk directly to developers. Next month MacTech will be presenting a full conference report, but I'd like to share some of my own perspectives on the conference in this months viewpoint.

WWDC is usually one of the most thrilling conventions of the year. Apple presents some exciting new directions for the platform, there are dramatic new announcements about technologies we've never heard of, and you get to meet all the new managers, engineers, and evangelists. Usually.

This year though, WWDC was kind of boring.

First off, Steve Jobs announced the new system road map. In 1999, Apple will continue to develop Mac OS X and Mac OS 8. A preview release of Mac OS X was distributed at the show and Apple announced that an update to Mac OS 8.6 was available on the web. Basically, same game plan as last year.

Then they talked about hardware. FireWire is the new standard for high speed data connection, and Apple showed off the new blue G3's with FireWire and a new FireWire PCMCIA card for PowerBooks (should be available in the next month or two). USB is the standard for desktop connectivity, and the floppy and ADB port are history. AltiVec, the new Vector co-processor in G4 systems, is the next future of Mac processing. But... that's what they told us last year.

Introducing myself to managers, engineers, and evangelists, was less than exciting as well. For the most part, these were the same folks I talked to last year - in the same departments. We even have the same CEO.

After the days of Bedrock, OpenDoc, and Rhapsody, this years WWDC was downright boring.

Not that I miss that kind of excitement. I could get used to this kind of boring.

Despite the lack of ground breaking (and product breaking :-) announcements, there was exciting news for developers. The graphics model for Mac OS X, dubbed Quartz, will be based on the PDF format, Apple announced an incremental update the G3 PowerBook (a sleek light weight model with USB), and we'll be seeing a unified printing architecture for Mac OS 8 and Mac OS X (one set of API's to print from either system).

Carbon, the subset of ToolBox APIs common to both Mac OS 8 and Mac OS X was at the center of many sessions. There was as subtle difference in how it was presented this year. Last year Carbon was introduced as a concept, and the idea was to trim down existing applications to the Carbon APIs, to allow for easy migration to Mac OS X. We were encouraged to develop new applications using the complete Mac OS X APIs.

Developers responded to this by asking how far back the Mac OS X APIs would extend. Would there be libraries, or at least stubs, allowing Mac OS X applications to run (even in a limited fashion) on Mac OS 8 or even 7.6? I think Apple was listening.

This year Carbon was presented less as a migratory tool, than as a cross platform option - a way to create new applications for Mac OS X that would be backwards compatible to Mac OS 8.1. In one session, the audience was asked how many developers in the audience were thinking of creating entirely new applications in Carbon?

Perhaps the most remarkable change though was in the folks who attended the conference. Attendance was up a little over previous years, but it wasn't the same crowd of folks we were used to seeing. Apple sponsored the attendance of 200 students, and even among the paying crowd there seemed to be an unusually large number of first time attendees. A lot of these folks were testing the waters of Mac development, asking questions about what tools were available for Mac developers and how easy it would be to transition from windows development to the Mac.

It's uncertain at this point how many of these folks will take the leap but it's a good sign that we're starting to see this renewed interest in Mac development.

Oh, and if you're looking for that die hard developers who were conspicuously absent at WWDC, odds are they're in Michigan even as you read this.

I did say the convention months. We start with Apple's side of things at WWDC in May, then June brings us MacHack - the gathering of cutting edge Mac developers. MacHack is a week long convention in Dearborn Michigan, from June 23-26th. MacHack http://www.machack.com/ is where folks gather after WWDC to take stock of the current state of Mac development, to trade information and touch base with each other. Hopefully, I'll see you there.

 
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