Developers Sound Off as Apples WWDC Nears

They raise concerns about developer tools while praising Apple's frameworks.

As Apple Computer Inc.s 2005 Worldwide Developer Conference approaches, four developers spoke with and expressed both enthusiasm and concerns about the development tools, user interface and APIs tied to Apples Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) operating system.

"Im hoping to see that Apple, having added so many great features in the last few OS releases, is now planning to spend more time on the mundane tasks of fixing bugs, adding polish, and so on," said Brent Simmons, the owner and programmer for Seattle-based Ranchero Software.

"User interface consistency and usability have declined in some areas—and theres been a lack of leadership on user interface questions. For instance," Simmons said, "Apple introduced a new window style [unified title and toolbar, as in Mail and System Preferences] but has not updated the Human Interface Guidelines to say when it should be used and why."

"The development tools, while improved, are not quite up to snuff," Simmons said. "Performance and crashing bugs still get in the way of productivity, and they still require a bit too much mousing [in place of keyboard access]."

Rich Siegel, founder and CEO of Bedford, Mass.-based Bare Bones Software, Inc., said he was happier with the state of developer tools for the Mac platform.

"Apple just shipped 10.4 with a new tool chain [Xcode 2.0], which uses new compilers [GCC 4.0] and a whole pile of new APIs," he said, "so I really dont think theres a whole lot we could ask for before those guys get back from a well-deserved vacation."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Mac OS X 10.4s offerings for developers.

However, Evan DiBiase, an engineer and architect for desktop Java applications, said that "a better Xcode suite, definitely, and better tools for documentation" would make his life as a developer easier.

"I use a great IDE for Java called IntelliJ IDEA and seeing Xcode come up to speed with IDEA both for Java development and Objective-C (my hobby language) development would be fantastic. In particular, IDEA provides much better code completion and navigation support, and lets me view documentation for code inline as Im editing, which is great both for exploring and for in-the-trenches development. Xcode is severely lacking in that area.

"Additionally, refactoring support in Xcode would be fantastic; its something I very much miss when I come to Xcode from IDEA."

"Other than that," DiBiase said, "Apples done a pretty good job making my life as a developer easier. I love their frameworks, and Xcode is pretty straightforward (if sometimes painful) to work with."

Simmons noted that though Apple had made good progress evolving the API sets in Mac OS X over the years, "There are many APIs that could use some expansion. One small example of many: Apple has provided WYSIWYG HTML editing as part of WebKit—but the markup it generates is HTML, while lots of people these days want XHTML."

Tim Lundeen, the CEO and founder of San Francisco-based Web Crossing Inc., said he wouldnt be attending WWDC due to scheduling conflicts, but that a representative from his company would.

Lundeen stressed that all of Web Crossings cross-platform products are first developed on Mac OS X and then ported to other platforms, which he believes is unique in the enterprise market.

"Weve been in the server side for a long time," said Lundeen, "so we like [Mac OS Xs] BSD underpinnings and the rackmount [Xserve product]."

"If we have a complaint," Lundeen said, "its that were supporting WebDAV in the next release of our product and we hope WebDAV access is not as slow in the next OS X release."

As for developer tools, Lundeen said, "Were very happy with whats available," though he noted that his company uses the Metrowerks CodeWarrior toolset—"Were longtime users."

"Overall, were very happy how Apples recent hardware and software have opened up the enterprise markets," Lundeen said.

Siegel said that though its Microsofts Steve Ballmer who famously chanted "developers, developers, developers," Apple is also listening to those who build Mac applications.

"The sheer quantity of feedback forums establishes a strong evidentiary case that Apple listens to all of its developers", he said. "Its not important to me whether or not Steve Jobs personally hears my specific remarks or says things to make me feel good. Whats important to me is that theres a solid developer support structure—with documentation, tools and technical support—behind the platform, and we have never had any trouble having our expectations met in that regard."

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