Sent: 1/12/97; 4:41:44 PM
I've been reading your pieces through Apple's latest crisis and can empathize with the ups and downs of emotions and hope over Apple's future.
Though Apple's latest press releases have clarified the situation a little better from the point of view of Mac users, it seems to me that much still needs to be said to developers. I'm particularly interested in the future of System 7 and what Apple is going to do to make the transition from System 7 to Rhapody as painless as possible for developers.
Its nice that Sytem 7 apps will still run under Rhapsody but that's a partial solution at best. We all seem to be buying Microsoft's point of view that an OS that doesn't have pre-emptive multi-tasking and protected memory is outdated. But I could argue that, from a user's point of view, true plug and play is a more important feature for an OS to have than either of these.
The real problem with System 7 from a user's point of view is stability. Protected memory is at best a crude solution to the problem of stability. It treats the symptoms not the cause. On the Mac, stability problems arise either from applications or the System itself. When the problem is a particular application, users have a very efficient mechanism for stabilizing their Macs: they simply stop using bug-ridden software. Buggy software has been with the Mac and every other computer from the beginning and the market deals with it.
My sense of the current problem is that the System itself has become the cause of many crashes. This may be due to not-ready-for-prime-time System releases or just the fact that people are running more applications at once, increasing the probability of System interactions bringing everything down. In either case there is a simple, but unglamorous, solution (as you have stated in the past). Apple needs to get in there and REALLY work on stabilizing the system. Listen to user reports of crashes. Investigate them. Toughen up System 7 and make it more fault tolerant. This doesn't require protected memory, just hard work. Most users I know are relatively happy with the available system services. They just want a stable machine.
My fear is that, with great irony, the Mac engineers within Apple will now become the "B" engineers , and all the "A" engineers will be working on Next . If Apple survives, System 7 is still going to be their dominant OS for 3-4 more years. It needs to be fixed!
My other concern is just how far Apple will go towards helping current Mac OS developers to make the transition to Rhapsody. This point is totally unaddressed in Apple's recent PRs.
For example, I have hundreds of resources for things like dialogs, menus etc. Will Apple provide a utility that translates them into whatever NextStep will need for these user interface items.
More importantly, my impression is that converting my code from System 7 to Rhapsody will be a major undertaking. The conceptual frameworks of the two OS's are very different. Yet I can imagine ways that Apple could ease the transition. Provide a Transitional API that maps NextStep to the closest match in the Mac OS APIs. I don't mind having to go through my code and add extra parameters here and there to make use of a re-entrant graphics API, but I should have a one-to-one correpsondence of calls for simple things like bringing up a dialog, making a menu etc.
Companies like Altura seem to be saying they will release products that do this, but their fees will probably be out of the range of small developers.
It is in Apple's interest to provide this sort of technology to its developers for free. Here's why: First, if I have to totally rewrite my code then I might as well jump ship and start writing for Java or Windows. But second, even if I do choose to continue developing for the Mac, without a Transitional API I will have to spend a huge amount of effort just getting an application that will provide my users with the exact same feature set under Rhapsody that they now have under System 7. This is not in Apple's interest. They need Rhapsody apps to be much cooler than System 7 or Windows apps. This process will be repeated by hundreds or thousands of developers (if Apple is lucky). All will be doing essentially the same thing. That amounts to wasted intellectual capital and Apple can't afford that. I don't care whether they develop a Transitional API in house or farm it out, but it needs to be done.
I'll continue to support my app under System 7. I owe that to my customers. But programming for Rhapsody is a big leap of faith. If I'm going to make that leap I want Apple waiting on the other side of the chasm with their hand oustretched as far as possible.
-Will Rabinovich Scientific Visions
This page was last built on Mon, Jan 13, 1997 at 8:03:02 AM. The messages in this site are responses to DaveNet essays.