Opinion: With Mac OS X Leopard features still up in the air, Apple's developer conference is now the locus of rumors. Will this WWDC prove to be as critical to ISVs (and the Mac's future) as the one held 10 years ago?
Ten years ago to this very week, Steve Jobs killed Apple. Or he began to take apart many of the projects and organization that many inside and outside the company thought of as Apples value to the computing industry.
This event was the announcement of the companys infamous spring 1997 reorganization, which continued step-by-step throughout the spring. For the companys long-suffering developers and ISVs, push came to shove at the annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), where Steve Jobs revealed his plans for Apples future direction.
Today, with the iPod-influenced haze over of recent Apple history as well as the success of Apples retail strategy and the Intel-Macintosh transition, we forget that some of that "future" talked up in 1997 never happened.
WWDC and Apples relations with developers, past and present, are on my mind. And no wonder.
Apple media representatives this week were ringing the phone making sure that reporters are entering the June dates for the 2007 WWDC
in our calendars.
The hubbub on the Mac enthusiast sites circles around the actual release date for Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5, and the expected concurrent release of iWork 07, an expanded edition of Apples productivity suite. Theres a lot of talk about an as-yet-unannounced special Apple event
coming on Feb. 20.
Whatever the details, Apple had better have shipped Leopard before
the next WWDC. Its already talked up the updates future and new features at two past conferences; it cant have deja vu all over again.
Apples WWDC story to developers must be how they can write (and sell) cool new versions of programs that will leverage the new features. Of course, developers will only buy into that message with a whole heart if theyve seen the lines queuing up to get Leopard. (And be sure, unlike the fizzled turnout for Windows Vista promotions, Mac users will be out in force to install Leopard, just as they did for the current Tiger version.)
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The company also has to shape up its tools. In the fall, Apple said it was adding XRay, a dynamic application performance framework based on the OpenSolaris DTrace.
Click here to read more about Apples security and developer tools slated for Leopard.
However, for a long while now, developers have complained that the introduction of new features has outpaced the fixing of bugs, especially those from the new features.
Recognition of this situation can be seen in a Tuesday, Feb. 6, posting in the Surfin Safari blog
by programmer Maciej Stachowiak. This blog covers WebKit, the framework used by the Safari browser, the Macs Dashboard widget applets and other Mac OS X applications.
"After many discussions with interested parties and members of the WebKit community, weve decided the time has come to get serious about stabilizing the code. Weve had about two years of development, which has included many awesome compatibility fixes, performance improvements, standards compliance enhancements, and new features. Now is the time to get the source tree in solid shape," Stachowiak wrote.
Developers say they cant wait.
"This is a good thing. WebKit has been kind of running wild with new projects going onremoving dependency on the Mac OS, adding SVG (scalable vector graphics) support and more. Thats all well and good, but there are tons of bugs that need to be fixed," said Dan Wood, co-owner of Karelia Software,
of Alameda, Calif. The company develops Sandvox, a simple, real-time Website editing tool.
"Clearly Apple is trying to whip WebKit into shape for a Leopard release," he added.
Of course, the whole world will be watching this year, with Windows Vista finally on the market. Apple has had the platform comparison scene easy for the past few years thanks to Microsofts nightmare development process.
While Apple has revealed some of Leopards features in its "sneak peak," even the most loyal developers are waiting on the entire package. When Leopard was announced, Jobs said Apple was keeping a number of features secret for its release.
Some of these "hidden" features are already revealed, such as resolution independence for displays, which decouples the resolution of OS elements, such as windows and menus from the physical pixel density of computer screens, and integration of ZFS (Zettabye File System),
which is included in Solaris 10.
These forthcoming Leopard capabilities are not hyped on Apples site. Still, developers expect them and theyre mostly working in the Leopard builds.
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