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Mar 00 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: Viewpoint


by Nick DeMello

This May, Apple is hosting it's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose California. Promoting development solutions for Macintosh is essential to Apple's survival. Apple makes their money by selling Macintosh, but people only buy Macintosh to make use of those solutions. Apple isn't in the business of creating and selling word processing programs, browsers, compilers, games, tools like Photoshop, Premiere, Eudora, FileMaker, Excel and the next great and unknown product that some is building in his basement right now. But Apple wouldn't be able to sell very many Macs if those solutions didn't exist and weren't continuing to be developed for Macintosh. WWDC is the one week a year when Apple calls together as many developers as they can and makes their pitch as to why people should develop for Macintosh.

The convention will be broken into at least five tracks of related presentations and workshops. The first of these tracks will focus on the Mac OS. This core OS is one of the most important parts of Macintosh. This year the focus will be on Mac OS X. Expect presentations on just about every part of Mac OS X: the Darwin Core, Quartz imaging model, Aqua interface, Cocoa application framework, and Carbon compliance for migrating older applications. For years Apple has taken heat about the core of their system lacking such essential features a true multitasking and protected memory, this year they'll finally be able to deliver those as well as some truly innovative and fundamental new technologies that will provide some compelling reasons for developers to target Macintosh.

Track two is a digital media track that will include QuickTime, OpenGL, and (not sure why this one is in Digital Media) Java. Over the last couple of years, Apple has extended their definition of "developer" in the same way the entire industry has. At one point providing solutions on the Macintosh meant you were a programmer, but today content creators and media developers are a growing portion of the folks bringing products to the Macintosh platform. DVD movies and Streaming Media Channels are almost as compelling a reason to buy Macintosh as traditional software. Expect to see sessions focused on preparing, manipulating, and delivering rich digital media with these technologies. The message in this track is that Macintosh is the definitive platform for digitial media content and application development and delivery.

Apple is a hardware company. The hardware track promises to give us a developers perspective on Apple's current hardware technologies (including AltiVec and AirPort), interface standards like FireWire and USB, and a look behind the curtain at what's in the works for the next year. Apple will make arguments for why the hardware component of Macintosh gives it a substantial edge over other platforms now and in the next year. They will provide reasons to locate your cpu or graphics intensive applications on Macintosh, as well try and outline opportunities to develop third party accessories to expand and support Macintosh. The explosion of USB devices and potential of FireWire based products for the Macintosh is pretty good demonstration of the effectiveness of these arguments from last year.

The Network and Security track gives some insight into how Apple sees the Macintosh platform supporting a new generation of applications. Apple's Sherlock 2, QuickTime TV, iDisk, and KidSafe are showcases of how the new Mac OS can allow desktop applications to work transparently with internet resources. The powerful new security, multi-user, and encryption features of the Mac OS coupled with new kinds of connectivity through the Sherlock interface, Streaming QuickTime, AppleShare IP (and Client SDK), NSL, AppleScript TCP/IP, and others mean Macintosh hosted applications can offer some great functionality for e-commerce, communications, and network based computing. While many of these technologies are not new, developer's haven't brought many related applications to market yet. Apple's promotion of iTools and now a WWDC track dedicated to Network and Security seems to indicate their intent jump start development in this area and stand behind the technologies they've developed for it. Personally, I think these technologies are likely to result in some of the most exciting new products for Macintosh and am looking forward to these sessions.

But it's the last track that really caught my eye: Tools. Apple has apparently devoted an entire conference track to developer resources where they will reveal "Apple's tools strategy and the future of development tools on Mac OS." On one hand Apple doesn't have a very good track record with regard to developer resources, I have to look at this announcement through skepticism colored by Bedrock, a lack of any printed API documentation, and charging developers $195 a pop to talk to Apple. On the other hand, the last few years have seen Apple make some bold and effective moves with regard to product design, development schedules, market position, advertising, and distribution. I'm hoping we're going to see a well thought out and long term developer resources plan that is just as innovative and successful. I'm hoping Apple plan's to make building Macintosh applications as easy as they've made using Macintosh and that the fifth track will be the most compelling reason yet to develop for Macintosh.


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