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  • The Mountain Lion Report: Some Developers Are Way Behind the Curve

    February 21st, 2012

    Trying to predict what Apple is going to do is an exercise in total futility. Just as soon as you think you have a handle on their product and marketing strategy, they turn around to upend your assumptions. It has happened often enough that you have to realize it’s all part of a plan you may never understand.

    Take those “predictable” Mac OS X upgrades. With Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion, you expected to see the birth of a new feline every couple of years, give or take a few months. It was all clockwork, and your expectations had it that the earliest Apple would disclose the particulars about 10.8 would be the 2012 WWDC, or maybe later.

    But Apple had other ideas, and, no, I do not believe that Mountain Lion was designed in response to the perceived potential threat of Windows 8. To me, Windows 8 is little more than the traditional Windows OS with an an ill-conceived tiled overlay. That change could have been accomplished with an add-on, and Microsoft didn’t need to spend billions of dollars to make it happen. Aside from that, and the alleged porting of Windows 8 to ARM processors, I don’t see much meat in Microsoft’s OS plans. It seems to be little more than misdirection rather than OS innovation.

    The real question is how developers are greeting Mountain Lion. For those who quickly made their wares Lion friendly, adding Mountain Lion hooks may not be so big a deal. I’m thinking in terms of compatibility with the Notification Manager, for example. A number of third-party programs use an open source tool known as Growl, which puts up similar notification banners, usually on the upper right of your Mac’s display. The message is white on black, same as the Notification Manager counterparts on the iOS and, now, Mountain Lion.

    For Growl to work with an app, the developer has to put in the proper hooks, but now that Apple has a system-wide tool offering a similar capability, does that mean that Growl will be “Sherlocked” into nonexistence? And if you’re wondering what I mean by that, well there once was a clever third-party search app, Watson, that was beaten to death by Apple’s version, known as Sherlock. Apple didn’t even attempt to come up with an original name, but Watson soon went bye-bye, and Sherlock morphed into Spotlight.

    I suppose the larger question will be whether Growl will be able to coexist with Mountain Lion as developers decide which direction to take, but a system-wide feature is almost always to be preferred if the Mac user is offered similar or better features. For 10.8, the Notification Manager’s setup screens very much resemble their iOS counterparts, as adapted to a desktop OS.

    I also have to wonder about developers that, so far, haven’t really embraced Lion and are suddenly confronted with the prospect of having to catch up with yet another OS X upgrade. Perhaps they will just have to consolidate their work, and get it done in one process. But when it comes to such companies as Adobe and Microsoft, we may be looking at 10.9 before anything meaningful happens.

    While Adobe’s recent Creative Suite apps do work fine under Lion, at least the ones I’ve tried, they do not support such native features as Auto Save or Versions, and forget about Full Screen Apps. With Mountain Lion, Adobe will have to consider not just the Notification Center, but the enhanced tools for iCloud. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to edit the same InDesign document on all your Macs, moving from desktop to note-book and back again, having the changes appear instantaneously. But that assumes you’re online when the magic happens. Otherwise, if Mountain Lion doesn’t fall back to your local network when you’re offline, you might have to wait for the changes to queue up. This is one of the unanswered questions about the whole thing.

    You see, Apple imagines a future in which we are all living in the cloud (and not just the part of our anatomies above the neck). This means relatively swift 24/7 connections, and that’s not a certainly. In the U.S. alone, millions do not have broadband connections. Some don’t want it, many more can’t get it, which means they will have to keep their old fashioned analog telephone modems active all the time, and suffer from those pitifully slow connections many of you have forgotten. At least the local phone companies in those areas will be able to sell you a second line strictly for online use, if you don’t already have one.

    I’m also more or less certain that Gatekeeper, meant to keep you from opening a possibly malware-ridden app, is yet another subtle gesture to coerce developers to put their stuff in the Mac App Store. However, there are apps that aren’t suitable now, and may never be suitable for such placement. Some of those apps tap system resources to, for example, capture both sides of a Skype conversation. Others have intense and sophisticated installers that throw files hither and yon on your hard drive. Neither would get to first base in the Mac App Store.

    But if Apple were to work with developers to help them simplify those convoluted installations, and provide hooks to allow apps and the OS to talk to each other to allow recording from other apps and other functions to safely happen within a sandboxed environment, maybe it won’t matter.

    Meantime, Mountain Lion may be both a threat and a promise to developers as they continue to try to embrace Apple’s OS future of major annual upgrades.



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    17 Responses to “The Mountain Lion Report: Some Developers Are Way Behind the Curve”

    1. dfs says:

      “I’m also more or less certain that Gatekeeper, meant to keep you from opening a possibly malware-ridden app, is yet another subtle gesture to coerce developers to put their stuff in the Mac App Store. ” Ain’t gonna happen. The Store may be a more or less fine way for small time developers to market their shares (I say “more or less“ because the 30% excise dings the developer and the inability to demo software ruins the old shareware model and so hurts the individual consumer). But I can’t see the major developers like Adobe and MS ever being coerced into putting their products in the Store. Not only would the 30% become a huge issue (it would entail $740 for every sale of the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection!!), but selling through the Store might make it difficult or impossible for such developers to maintain the anti-piracy security measures they are now using. Little developers have to grin and bear whatever Apple dishes out because they don’t have deep enough pockets to sue Apple for monopolistic business practises. If Apple tried to buffalo the major commercial developers into selling through the Store they’d quickly discover that the big boys have big legal departments. I would also imagine that, while the Store speficially designed to vend software to individual consumers, it would be an absolutely terrible way to deliver software to the Enterprise, school districts, etc., and I can’t think Apple would really want to cut itself off from such lucrative markets.

      • @dfs, You forget that the major software publishers also sell through traditional distributors, who, in turn, send them to the dealers they represent. That’s two levels of profit, which total more than the 30% “excise” that so offends you. Adobe has already begun to release products to the Mac App Store. There are published reports that a Lion savvy version of Microsoft Office will soon be posted there as well. The trend will only expand.

        Peace,
        Gene

    2. AdamC says:

      This Apple is more confident that it doesn’t care whether Adobe or MS want to join the party, I believe they know where they are going that is a to destination without either.

      Yes it a post PC era where the future is mobile and touch.

    3. SteveP says:

      Personally I find the many of Apple’s “Lion” and “Mountain Lion” paradigms to be steps backwards. But then again, to each their own. Looking at the direction that Lion and Mountain Lion have taken us, and seeing where Microsoft appears to be headed, Linux may be the only real computing platform left for users who know what they are doing and want to do things their way. And it is quite unfair of you to label Windwos 8 as something that could simply be an “add on pack” and yet seem to be lauding Mountain Lion as a worth major OS upgrade. Mountain Lion appears to be even more of an application add-on pack to Lion than Windows 8 is.

      • @SteveP, For Lion, you’re talking about a small handful of iOS-related changes, really. Maybe there’s a better way to do Auto Save, but at least Apple made it a system-wide tool for app developers to grab onto. But there are 200 features to consider, and some are more than skin-deep. Same for the so-called 100-plus new features in Mountain Lion, which provide greater security and enhance performance.

        Your statement about “the only real computing platform left for users who know what they are doing and what to do things there way” overlooks the purpose of a personal computer, which for most people is to run apps. Fiddling with the OS comes way down on the list. That’s the audience Apple addresses. Microsoft does too in part, but I continue to maintain that, beneath the questionable Metro eye candy, Windows 8 is just Windows with a different veneer. It’s far less compelling than what Apple is doing.

        Taking a failed interface theme and tossing it into Windows 8 and a tablet version seems the height of illogical behavior.

        Peace,
        Gene

    4. Daniel says:

      Actually Sherlock and Sherlock 2 existed way before Watson. Watson was inspired by the Sherlock name. Sherlock 3 is the version that looked like a ripoff of Watson at the same time you can see how Sherlock 3 looks to be an evolution of Sherlock 2 in many respects.

    5. The other SteveP says:

      Thank you, Daniel!
      Almost everyone now follows the knee-jerk cliché. Big bad Apple vs “Underdog”. Watson was an obvious extension of what Apple was already working on. Apple had no reason to stop their own development just because Watson got there first. I really don’t think they “copied” or “stole” Watson’s ideas.

    6. Peter says:

      One of the issues you run into–especially when you’re a big company with lots of products–is scheduling.

      Imagine I’ve just shipped version 4 of my product. Usually what I would do is give my developers a bit of a rest, get feedback from my customers about what they like and don’t like about version 4, and consider new features. Say I spend a few months on this and come up with a set of changes that will go in to version 5. I’ve assigned developers to develop these features, allocated QA resources for testing, etc. All looks good for a release about 1 year from when version 4 shipped.

      Now Apple comes along and says, “Hey! In six months we’ll have a new OS with a bunch of whizz-bang features!”

      Do I:

      a) Lose a feature that my users have requested and assign that engineer to add support for Apple’s additions?
      b) Plan to support the new Apple features in version 6?

      Well, at the moment, I have users who are actually willing to pay an upgrade fee for this feature. I doubt anybody’ll pay an upgrade fee for supporting Apple’s new features. Hmm…make money or support Apple…

    7. dfs says:

      “ I doubt anybody’ll pay an upgrade fee for supporting Apple’s new features” Depends on how compelling the new feature is. So it’s Apple’s business to make sure that its new features indeed are compelling. I. m. h. o., autosave/versions makes the grade, it’s new and valuable. Notifications doesn’t, since Growl is already available, so that with this feature Apple is only reinventing the wheel.

      • @dfs, Notification Center is a matter of putting something in the OS that should have been there all along, as adapted from the iOS. New and valuable? No, but consistent with the user experience across Apple’s mobile and desktop computing platforms, yes.

        Peace,
        Gene

    8. OS X Mountain Lion: Some developers are way behind the curve | iWallet says:

      […] Much more in the full article here. […]

    9. jedi says:

      “But Apple had other ideas, and, no, I do not believe that Mountain Lion was designed in response to the perceived potential threat of Windows 8. To me, Windows 8 is little more than the traditional Windows OS with an an ill-conceived tiled overlay. That change could have been accomplished with an add-on, and Microsoft didn’t need to spend billions of dollars to make it happen. Aside from that, and the alleged porting of Windows 8 to ARM processors, I don’t see much meat in Microsoft’s OS plans. It seems to be little more than misdirection rather than OS innovation.”

      WOW…windows 8 change accomplished by an add on…lol…either youre a apple fanboy..or just plain stupid..or both..lol

      • You don’t read very well. I said a theme change could have been done with an add-on. Not that it was. When you stop playing with laughing gas, list the most important changes in Windows 8. You do know them right?

        Peace,
        Gene

        • @Gene Steinberg, And since I don’t expect our laughing gas victim to respond, here are what are supposed to be the most significant Windows 8 features:

          • Support for x86 and ARM (old news)
          • Windows To Go (run it on a USB drive)
          • Windows Store (how original)
          • Metro Interface (which failed on the Zune and Windows Phone)
          • Better security (OK, that’s good to know)

          But running Windows 8 on ARM doesn’t mean Windows apps will run without serious redesign, and if you click past Metro on a PC, it’s still just Windows.

          Color me bored.

          Peace,
          Gene

    10. MacBram says:

      @peter, regarding giving developers a rest between versions:
      From accounts I have read, Adobe have cut back their developer team for Mac version development. By all accounts, they have like two part-time developers for Mac development. How much more of a rest can you get? This is why they are YEARS behind. We are not talking about a rest between a Lion and Mountain Lion focused version, we are talking about moving from Carbon to Cocoa. Adobe simply don’t care!

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