Apple Smooths the Path

By Nick Ciarelli  |  Posted 2006-01-12

Mac Developers Move Forward on Intel Compatibility

SAN FRANCISCO—With Macintosh computers based on Intel Corp. processors now available, Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs is pushing developers to "work even harder" to create native Intel versions of their software.

And at the Macworld Expo here, developers of business software say they are up to the challenge.

The rollout of new systems is "a little ahead of schedule," Jobs acknowledged in his keynote address Tuesday. Many in the Mac community originally projected that the company would begin selling Macs with Intel chips by the summer of 2006.

For AEC Software Inc., however, the accelerated transition is "really pushing us forward," said Ryan Kish, vice president of marketing at the developer of project management tools, based in Sterling, Va.

Companies displaying their wares at the conference said their most pressing goal is to ensure that their applications are compatible with Rosetta, a component of Mac OS X that dynamically translates most code written for IBMs PowerPC processor and lets it run on Intel chips.

"It was seamless," Kish said of his products compatibility with Rosetta. "That makes us, as a developer, feel good that ... customers will have a good experience."

In his keynote address, Steve Jobs admitted that Rosettas performance is not fast enough for some processor-intensive software. Apples own applications for creative professionals, including Final Cut Pro, Aperture and Logic, are not officially supported.

But for many developers, the more daunting task will be to ship "universal binaries" of their software applications that run natively on both Intel and PowerPC processors.

"Its a little bit of a challenge to get to the finish line with a native version," Kish said of AEC Softwares efforts.

Denver-based Quark Inc. announced on Tuesday that Version 7 of its QuarkXPress desktop publishing software will ship as a universal binary later in the year.

Can software vendors give "Mactel" computers an enterprise boost? Click here to read what Microsoft and other vendors have up their sleeves.

Microsoft Corp. said it also is readying an Intel-native version of Office for the Mac, though it hasnt yet announced a release date.

Apples iLife suite, iWork and Mac OS X applications such as the Safari Web browser are already universal. Native versions of Apples pro software will be available in March.

Several developers said Apple had eased the way by providing them with "transition kits," Pentium 4-based Macs that were available after Apple announced the Intel switch at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2005.

Next Page: Apple smooths the path with "transition kits."

Apple Smooths the Path

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Tom Nash, managing partner of MYOB US Inc., in Rockaway, N.J., a developer of business and accounting software, said Apple provided MYOB with seed units early enough that the company had plenty of time to test its software on Intel Macs.

Apple provided the transition kits to developers for $999 on the condition that they be returned, but the Mac maker said this week it will let developers exchange their test systems for new Intel-based iMacs, free of charge, enabling them to test their software on the final product.

Nash, who said that Rosetta runs MYOBs AccountEdge software flawlessly, welcomed the faster pace of the transition as his company gears up to offer a native release for Intel.

"Were kind of ready for it anyway," Nash said. "If anything, it just presses the issue for having a universal binary."

The new Macs feature Intels Core Duo processor. A fresh crop of iMacs will ship immediately, while Apples first Intel-based laptop, the MacBook Pro, will ship in February. All of Apples product lines will make the switch by the end of this year, Jobs said.

Will the new "Mactel" machines run Mac OS X, Windows and Linux? Read more here.

Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., did not offer developers advance notice that Intel-based Macs would ship this week, in keeping with the companys tradition of secrecy, Jobs said in his keynote address.

"We like a good secret as much as the next person," Jobs said.

But some developers were not surprised by the move.

At Now Software Inc., a Columbus, Ohio, developer of Mac and Windows calendar and contact management software, employees conducted an office pool to predict how soon after the new year Apple would announce Intel-based systems. The latest prediction was March 2006; the earliest, submitted by Director of Marketing Randal T. Murray, was "zero to two weeks" into 2006.

"We were not surprised at all," Murray said.

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