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  • The Tiger Report: Why Aren’t More Apps Compatible?

    May 21st, 2005

    Three weeks after installing Tiger, I have found it incredibly stable, and, as some have observed, snappier on my Power Mac G5. Despite this rosy picture, a number of applications had to be updated because of compatibility problems of one sort or another. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with these issues, but a lot of you have.

    If you want to get an idea of the fixes already available, you’ll want to check out the special Tiger compatibility area at Ric Ford’s Macintouch. Over the next few weeks, you can depend on that last expanding by leaps and bounds.

    So what’s wrong with this picture? Why do we have to read about a slew of problems with existing software? Does it have to be that way? Well, you see it’s not unusual to encounter problems of this sort when a major operating system upgrade arrives. Anything that touches the guts of the system may be affected more deeply than other software. The biggest examples include system enhancements, maintenance utilities and backup software, and that’s only the beginning. You’ve heard of the issues, no doubt, that affect VPN connections to corporate networks and other connectivity issues. Of course, the 10.4.1 update may have already addressed some of those problems, but others may still exist.

    The situation is probably a lot worse with Tiger, because of the high number of under-the-hood changes. When you consider many of those 220 changes, you realize that only programmers will appreciate (or dread) them. On the other hand, none of these changes should have come as a great surprise for developers, since they got a gander at Tiger as early as June of 2004, when early release versions were distributed to attendees and later to a wider to Select and Premier members of Apple’s developer program. As work on Tiger progressed, they were entitled to receive updated versions to continue to check against their products.

    And, by the way, I’m not going to talk about developers who violate their confidentiality agreements and talk about those prerelease versions or release copies on the Internet. They know the consequences and deserve Apple’s wrath.

    In any case, it would seem logical to assume that Mac software publishers should have received a fairly good indication of the work they had to do early on, right? Surely Tiger compatible versions should have been available for release on April 29th, so why did we still have still have to wait? For example, you won’t see a fully compatible version of Microsoft Virtual PC until summer or even later. Pro Tools 6.9, the latest version of the popular audio application from Digidesign, is still being updated to work with Tiger. That means that if you bought one of those new Power Macs that shipped with Tiger preloaded, you will have to wait a few more weeks before you can deploy your new computer in your recording studio.

    So what’s wrong with this picture. If Apple can deliver complete operating systems 12 or 18 months apart, shouldn’t developers of a single application be able to do it a whole lot faster? Are these companies just lazy, deserving of our wrath and perhaps loss of business? Not necessarily.

    In the real world, where there are lots of gray areas, the situation isn’t so cut and dry. Yes, a software publisher may know early on the problems that might be encountered with the new system, but they are also chasing a moving target. There is no way to know for certain that the changes they are counting on (or fear) in the new Mac OS will be there in the same form when development is finished, so they could end up with spending time and money making changes that aren’t necessary, or create new and unexpected issues.

    The upshot of all this is that it may be very late in the development process before a software publisher can feel confident that they are on the right track. After all, you wouldn’t want to install an update, only to discover that it fixes the wrong problem, or simply doesn’t work.

    You may not like it, you may be inconvenienced as a result, but that’s the way it is. Now if you’ve already upgraded to Tiger and had an unexpected surprise, you may be faced with a dilemma. If you need a product that isn’t compatible yet, you may have to consider downgrading to Panther and waiting a while before you give Tiger another try. If you haven’t upgraded yet, you’ll want to check with the publishers of your mission critical software about Tiger compatibility, so you don’t upgrade prematurely. After all, wouldn’t you rather wait than have to confront a buggy product that may cause you even more grief? Life is hard enough as it is.

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