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MacTech Spotlight: Eric Schwiebert, Microsoft Corporation

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 06
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Eric Schwiebert, Microsoft Corporation

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What do you do?

I work for Microsoft Corporation.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I've been working at Microsoft for 10 years (I started in September 1996). I've been in the Macintosh Business Unit from the very beginning of its formation in January 1997 and have been a development lead since the Fall of 2001. I've worked on Excel for about 5 years, was the development lead for the Mac Remote Desktop Connection client, and am currently leading a team responsible for software localization, setup, and various features in use throughout the entire Office suite. Since the summer of 2005 I've also led the cross-unit team responsible for evaluating, testing, and completing MacBU's switch to Xcode. My current title is "Lead Software Development Engineer."

What was your first computer?

My parents bought an Apple IIc in 1985 when I was in 5th grade. My own personal first computer was a Mac IIsi that I bought when I started college in 1992. Since then I've owned a PowerMac 8500/120, a Pismo PowerBook G3, a 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4, a 24" Intel iMac, and a few eminently forgettable PCs.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

I'm generally a Mac-first person but am comfortable using pretty much any system. I used to run a Linux box as a router for my DSL connection, and have a Windows PC in my office. I do prefer the Mac for doing most of my work though.

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

I really prefer the Macintosh UI over Windows (although I'm perfectly at home with pretty much any system) and I like the set of system APIs available, both for Carbon and for Cocoa. Beyond the Mac itself, however, I really love working in the midst of the Mac community. I've met some really interesting people from Apple as well as individuals who write for the Mac as a small business or as a hobby. The Mac development ecosystem is very vibrant and enthusiatic and I love to be a part of it, both through more formal venues such as WWDC and MacWorld or informally talking to and with customers and developers on my blog.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

The coolest thing about the Mac (at least, about the newest Intel-based Macs) is that I can do all my major work on the Mac side, and then boot into Windows for the occasional game or to help my wife with some of her volunteer projects. I think the Mac is now the most versatile computer available!

If I could change one thing about Apple/OS X, I'd:

Have GCC compile faster. The tools we used before Xcode could build Office in a matter of a few hours on a G5. It takes a quad-core Mac Pro to achieve the same speed with Xcode/GCC (although that includes building for two architectures). But that really only affects developers -- as far as the OS and hardware is concerned, I'm pretty happy with what Apple is doing.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

I've mostly just dabbled with combining some of the myriad technologies available in OS X (shell scripts, Perl and Python, POSIX APIs, Carbon and Cocoa, etc.) to implement little one-off tools. In college I had a lot of fun building my own CPU for a computer engineering class (running at 10Hz!)

Where can we see a sample of your work?

Launch any Office 2004 application, go to the 'Tools' menu, and select 'Scrapbook'. That was my main feature for Office 2004. It harkens back to the dawn of the Mac and the old Scrapbook Desk Accessory. The Office scrapbook lets you store clippings and assign simple metadata to them so that you can find the clipping you want later.

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

Well, I've put a lot of time and energy into the next version of Mac Office, and that product will affect millions of people who use it. My major contribution to this release of Mac Office has been the conversion to Mach and Xcode, so while that doesn't really translate to any user-level features, I have worked hard to bring it fully into the modern OS X world and I'm very proud of that!

Any other detail you'd like us to feature?

Being a Mac developer at Microsoft means that I often hear a lot of flak about our products or our commitment to the Mac community. I've been an Apple customer for 20 years and a Mac user for 15; my own commitment to the Mac world at large has never been greater, and the MacBU commitment continues to remain incredibly strong. I really love what I do and the ways I get to work in the Mac development community as a member of the MacBU.


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