Mac Developers Move Forward on Intel Compatibility

Some Mac developers were surprised at the speed of Apple's Intel transition and see challenges in the "universal binaries" needed to run programs natively on both Intel and PowerPC processors.

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.

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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."