SAN FRANCISCO—The aftershocks of Apple Computer Inc.s plan to transition from IBM PowerPC processors to Intel Corp.s Pentium chips have begun rippling through the Mac makers software developer base.
Attendees at Apples Worldwide Developers Conference here—some of the first people outside of Cupertino, Calif., to learn that Intel processor Macs will debut in 2006—expressed a range of emotions.
Some were cautiously optimistic following the announcement by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, here. But others reactions appeared to be near post-keynote traumatic stress disorders.
Either way, theres a lot of work to do. Applications might not be as easy to port to the new hardware as Jobs promised, some developers warned.
Others said that although the move would serve Apple well in the long run, the action could hurt the companys sales, and by extension their own, in the interim.
“Its certainly the right decision in the long run. In the short term, theres the worry that hardware sales will drop off,” said Leonard Rosenthal, Chief Innovation Officer of Apago Inc., in Alpharetta, Ga.
“Its good news, but one of the scariest things Apple has announced in long time. Theres big-time uncertainty.”
Eric Prentice, CEO of Dr. Bott LLC, a Wilsonville, Ore., maker of accessories for Macs and iPod music players, echoed the same concern.
“The majority of our sales are tied to Mac sales,” Prentice said. “People who are on three- or four-year purchasing cycles are going to wait another 10 months.”
The potential impact on sales, Prentice said, was what had Jobs repeatedly stating that Apple was in a strong position in his keynote.
“But I have faith in Steve,” Prentice said. “The iPod could carry the company through the transition.”
During his WWDC keynote, Jobs spoke directly to developers.
He distinguished four different classes of software that would make the transition.
The first, Java-based code plus scripts and widgets for Mac OS X 10.4s Dashboard feature, would “just work,” Jobs said.
These are all built with either text files or cross-platform standards such as Java and HTML.
The second class, Jobs said, is code built in the Cocoa environment, which is a Mac OS X-native set of APIs that are closely related to the OpenStep operating system from which Mac OS X was created.
Developers working in Cocoa through Apples Xcode development tool should only have “small tweaks” and a recompile before seeing their applications work on the upcoming Intel-based Macs.
Developers Need Further Tweaking
Theo Gray, the co-founder of Wolfram Research Inc., demonstrated how changing a check box in Xcode helped his company move their product, Mathematica 5, onto an Intel-based Mac.
Developers using Xcode and Carbon, another Mac OS X set of APIs but derived from previous versions of the Mac OS, would need further tweaking of code, Jobs said, before a recompile.
Most major developers, including Macromedia, Adobe and Microsoft, use Carbon because of its reuse of code from pre-Mac OS X software.
However, Jobs warned, those who work with Carbon in Freescale Semiconductor Inc.s Metrowerks divisions Codewarrior development environment would have to move their workflow to Xcode, and then tweak and recompile code.
Microsofts Office suite for Mac OS X is built with Codewarrior.
Following the address, Theirry Kauffmann, the president of Frances Prokov Editions, which makes medical software, said he was “very surprised” at Apples plan to switch to Intel chips.
“It could be good news,” he said, in that it “could lead to more performance” from Macs.
He was sanguine about the switch because his company had switched from developing in Carbon to Cocoa in 1999, partially based, he said, on Jobs announcement at the time that Cocoa would offer cross-platform capabilities.
That didnt pan out, but Kauffmann said the move now gives his company a leg up and a full year to test its applications.
Gregory Dow, a Mac Framework Architect at San Francisco-based Macromedia Inc., said that the company largely uses Codewarrior and Carbon for its extensive suite of graphics applications.
“The timing works out well for Macromedia, because we have the next cycle of product shipping in the fall. For this cycle, we wont change anything,” he said.
This makes a “good breaking point,” allowing the company to concentrate on an Intel-compatible version in its next product cycle.
Still there are a lot of unknowns. Rosenthal, for one, worries about what graphics processors Apple will choose for its different machines.
A decision to go with Intels on-board graphics processors in some systems and discrete graphics cards in others could lead to increased driver and support concerns, he said.
Apple will attempt to lend a hand to its developers, however.
Jobs unveiled “developer transition kits,” composed of a Pentium 4-based Power Mac, Mac OS X 10.4.1 for Intel and Xcode 2.1.
The kits, which cost $999, will be available in two weeks, Jobs said, and must be returned to Apple in 2006.
It was on computers like those, running Mac OS X for Intel, that Jobs ran his presentation Monday.
Editors Note: David Morgenstern provided additional reporting for this story.