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  • Apple Ditches Technologies Right and Left

    November 5th, 2010

    Just the other day, the pundits started ranting about yet another technology that Apple is evidently discarding. This comes as the result of the decision to deprecate Java — in other words stop development — as of the release of Mac OS X Lion next year.

    Now Java is a cross-platform development tool that’s quite popular in the Windows and Unix worlds, but hasn’t taken the Mac by storm, except mostly in server and scientific markets. While Apple has undertaken development of the Mac version, Java is now owned by Oracle, whose CEO is Larry Ellison, a close friend of Steve Jobs.

    What this means is that, if Oracle wants to see new Mac versions, they will have to take over the programming chores, or let third parties do it.

    Now the write once, run anywhere philosophy is laudable, but there aren’t a lot of Java-based Mac apps. Many of them pay only lip service to the Mac interface and usually suffer from performance problems. This doesn’t mean some don’t work well, and it is not necessarily the nail in the coffin for Java on the Mac. I suppose if enough developers clamored for it, Oracle or someone else would see the wisdom of keeping it going.

    For Apple, it’s all Cocoa all the time, which is Mac OS X’s native development environment, although many apps, including ones from Adobe and Microsoft, still use the less flexible Carbon technology instead.

    Just recently, Apple put the kibosh on bundling Flash with new Macs, starting with the MacBook Air. That means if Flash is preloaded on your Mac, even if you just bought it, that may be the last of the production units with Flash. From now on, if you want Flash, you’ll have to download a copy from Adobe. Maybe that decision will encourage the company to offer a built-in update mechanism, so if a version is declared unsafe, you’ll be warned to download the fixed version.

    Now I realize that Jobs has been lambasted by some for the decision to zap Flash from the system install DVD, but there’s a precedent. Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 ship without Flash, so why isn’t Steve Ballmer facing similar criticisms?

    Oh, that’s right. Jobs is the control freak, and Ballmer is the addled CEO who just spouts nonsense, so you might as well ignore him.

    While I’m no great lover of Flash, or Adobe for that matter, I do hope this move encourages them to take more care in making sure Mac users are always offered the latest, most secure version. As some of you recall, some Mac OS X upgrade packs have occasionally shipped with versions of Flash laden with security problems, even though those problems had already been fixed with updates. That’s often because it takes time to certify a component of the operating system, add it to the standard installation, and then go through the normal Q&A process to make sure everything works.

    No, I don’t subscribe to the paranoid viewpoint that Apple stuck a buggy version of Flash into the Mac OS out of spite for Adobe. Being vindictive isn’t part of Apple’s DNA, although some might think so in light of the outspoken comments from Steve Jobs about Flash and other products.

    The other day, Jobs reportedly indicated that Apple wasn’t about to jump on the brand new USB 3.0 bandwagon, even though peripherals had become available. This is evidently because the new peripheral standard hasn’t yet been included in the latest Intel chipsets (I assume). Indeed, it appears Intel is more interested in superior technology, Light Peak, which uses high-speed optical cables.

    Apple and Intel are supposedly high on Light Peak, which promises a bandwidth of 10Gbps, reportedly scaling to 100Gbps as development continues. What this means, evidently, is that a full-length Blue-ray movie could stream over Light Peak in 30 seconds flat. You’d even be able to use it with a display or even a flat panel TV, I gather. So will HDMI also go by the wayside in the quest for uniformity?

    Clearly, new storage devices and other peripherals would have to be built to take advantage of the extraordinary performance promised by Light Peak, which is expected to debut early in 2011. If all goes well, that would mean that you’ll see new Mac products sporting Light Peak by spring. If it catches on, and Apple has a good record of jumping on promising technologies for the most part, it may mean that USB 3.0 is destined to enter the dustbin of history.

    Yes, I know Apple developed and promoted FireWire early on, and development continues, but as more and more computers support other protocols, FireWire may be joining USB 3.0 eventually.

    Of course, all this depends on just how much Light Peak chips will cost, and how that might impact the price of new peripherals. If it’s cheap, Intel’s support could mean even PCs will get on the bandwagon. But I won’t presume to make any guesses until supporting products are released and tested.

    Maybe it won’t be long before even USB becomes the equivalent of floppies.

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