MacHack attendees release second annual "Top Developer Issues for Apple" list
Hundreds of leading Mac developers indicate priorities for future of the platform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 1996
Editorial Contact: MacHack '96 Evangelist Raines Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org), (510) 337-9427
Public contact: See ExpoTech info, below.
DEARBORN, MICH. - Attendees at the MacHack conference last month returned home with the second annual list of top issues for Apple to address in order to assist Macintosh developers in delivering the best software in the world on the Macintosh. The list was finalized and sent this week to Apple's V.P. of Developer Relations, Heidi Roizen, for feedback and action.
The eleventh annual incarnation of the "technical conference for leading edge developers," held in the Holiday Inn Fairlane here June 20-22, featured hundreds of new and experienced Mac developers, including more than 240 academics, commercial developers, and in-house programmers, and more than 40 Apple engineers and evangelists. They gathered in round-the-clock sessions to exchange technical information, present papers, learn from one another, provide feedback to Apple, and collaborate on "hacks", programs that stretch the limits of the platform, doing unexpected or unusual things in interesting ways to show off and provide examples.
The theme of this year's MacHack was "This Hack goes to eleven," marking both the eleventh annual meeting of the conference and an inside reference to the movie "Spinal Tap". Accordingly, the top eleven (rather than the traditional ten) issues were selected by attendees (see List of Top Issues for Apple, below).
Top Issues For Apple
Topics for the "top eleven issues for Apple" list were nominated through advance submissions to the MacHack Web site at the URL: (http://www.machack.com/), and by issues raised by attendees at the conference's annual "Bash Apple" feedback session. At the session, a tenyear tradition at the conference, the Apple employees in attendance gathered on stage to answer questions posed by the thirdparty developers, covering a wide range of technical and marketing issues. Each voting attendee allocated eleven points among up to eleven issues of the 36 listed on the ballot. The ballots were compiled and results tabulated by independent volunteers on the conference committee.
The developers strongly urged Apple to continue long-term investment in the MacOS platform, giving first priority to encouragement of academic and hobby developers, in order to maintain a talent pool of Mac-knowledgeable developers to create the corporate and commercial applications of the future. Attendees suggested that Apple provide training materials, development tools (both Apple's own tools and third-party tools), and documentation (especially using low-cost methods such as CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web), and to encourage universities to take advantage of the training materials.
The second priority of the voting developers was to standardize the version numbers used on system software and component releases, so developers can know what version of the myriad individual system components each user is running. This would make it easier for developers to test their programs for compatibility, to help their users run their programs more reliably, and to manage their own Mac networks. Speakers at the "Bash Apple" session were understanding of the marketing and distribution pressures discouraging Apple from changing primary version numbers as it updates software, but convinced that the benefit of simplifying release numbers would outweigh the cost.
At the conference, attendees were able to work hands-on with a prerelease version of MacOS 8, Apple's next major upgrade to its operating system, and, in numerous technical sessions on the topic, explore what they will need to do to adapt their applications to take advantage of its powerful features. However, they gave a high ranking (3rd overall) to the need for tools that would allow them to build applications that do so but still run on System 7.5.x. They asked Apple to create Application Program Interfaces (API's) specifically for this purpose - obviously not providing all MacOS 8 features on earlier versions, but certain key technologies that they will need to employ in order to make the most of MacOS 8.
Apple's revamping over the last year of its Developer Purchase Program (and its provision of access to alternate channels) plus changes in developer priorities resulted in last year's top issue, Apple needing to provide low-cost systems for developers, dropping to #4 this year. MacHack attendees still feel it is important for Apple to make it easy for them to obtain at least one Mac suitable for development.
Tied for fifth place on the 1996 list were requests for improved quality control on Apple's hardware manufacturing (and the supporting system software), and more component-level frameworks that make it easier for developers to take advantage of Apple technologies. The latter items, known as Sprockets, have been popularized by Apple's successful Game Sprockets developer tools. Attendees expressed a desire for similar tools to make Internet access easier, for example.
Other issues the voting attendees selected as important included for Apple to adapt the system software-installation process to make new Apple technologies more widespread, so that developers can rely on them being available to users (as it has done with QuickTime, for example, by making it part of the standard system installation over the past few years). They also asked for improved API quality; selected access to Radar, Apple's internal bug-tracking database; a program to allow developers to gain marketing value with applications released first or only on the Mac; system software API's compatible with Pascal development; and increased cross-platform (Windows and Unix) availability of Apple technologies.
Several issues ranked high in 1995 moved far down the list in 1996, indicating increased satisfaction with some aspects of Apple's developer programs.
Apple's responses and follow-ups, along with ongoing developer discussion of the issues, will be posted along with the list on the MacHack web site at (http://www.machack.com/). This year's top issues for Apple will be on the ballot along with new concerns at the 1997 MacHack, scheduled to be held at the Holiday Inn Fairlane in Dearborn, Michigan, on June 26-28, 1997.
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The 1996 MacHack Top Issues For Apple Results
Based on 108 returned ballots
rank. What Apple should do (in shorthand)
General illustration or explanation of the issue
The Top Issues:
1. Encourage academic/hobby development.
Support college students in Mac hacking with affordable access to systems, tools, and docs.
2. Use real release numbers!
Give each new release of each system software component a new, higher,version number, an actual sequential real number, not a "release 2a."
3. Provide MacOS 8 API's under System 7.
Give us backward-compatibility API's to ease the transition so developers can maintain one source base.
4. Give us cheap Macs.
Let each developer purchase an affordable, high-end development workstation.
5(tie). Improve hardware quality
Make it right from the start so it won't break when we need it most.
5(tie). Give us more Sprockets.
We need more application-specific frameworks for comm., text, Apple events, I/O, etc.
7(tie). Increase installed base of key new Apple technologies.
Optional installs of essential resources discourage customer adoption.
7(tie). Improve API Quality across-the-board.
9. Give us Radar access.
Open up your internal bug-tracking database to developers (respecting confidentiality).
10. Revive the "Cool Tool" awards.
11(tie). Recognize and reward Mac-first/Mac-only development.
Create a program with tangible marketing incentives for releasing apps first on the Mac.
11(tie). Don't snub Pascal.
Provide Pascal API's for all Apple technologies. Don't require C/C++.
13. Help drive adoption of Apple technologies by delivering them cross-platform.
14(tie). Help us avoid DLL confusion and conflict in System 7.
We need coordination of shared library issues and versions.
14(tie). Give us protected memory - now!
16(tie). Apple's chief technologist should know how to patch a trap.
16(tie). Give us your test tools.
Provide developer access to Apple's internal software testing tools, as appropriate.
16(tie). Provide a system-level exception model.
19(tie). Improve Apple's developer tools.
Give us what we need to create great apps using the latest technologies.
19(tie). Use our test tools.
Take advantage of third-party stress-test tools to produce better system software.
21(tie). Improve the developer seed program.
Give us better, faster access to new hardware and software.
21(tie). Give us one feature per file.
Consolidate all shared libraries, cdevs, etc. that are related into a single, shared resource.
21(tie). Improve TextEdit.
Get rid of limits and incorporate support for new technologies in Apple's text-editing engine.
24. Improve Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.
We want better food, more emphasis on existing technologies, and better room sizes.
25(tie). Offer priority service for developer's hardware.
Keep our machines running so our development isn't interrupted and products delayed.
25(tie). Provide low-cost/minimal developer tools.
Don't shut out entry-level developers by forcing them to buy third-party tools.
27(tie). "We can all be friends."
Don't stomp third-party developers through unfair competition.
27(tie). Improve the system software installation process.
29(tie). Improve Macintosh documentation and technical information.
29(tie). Provide mechanism to quickly disable non-essential extensions.
For example, we want to be able to press a key to load just CD-ROM drivers and the like.
31. Give developers more informational "ammo" so they can fight for Macintosh.
32(tie). Provide file mapping for Code Fragment Manager 68K and CFM PPC with VM off.
32(tie). Provide online Apple Developer Relations presence and support.
34. Kudos to Apple for doing some things right.
35(tie). Improve Developer Technical Support.
35(tie). Offer an all-inclusive "premium" Mac developer program.
Provide a higher-priced membership level that includes ETO, everything needed.
Copyright (c) 1996, MacHack.