Life in the Slow Lane

Apple, Inc. just held their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference. Their annual meeting to get 3rd party developers up to speed on new products and technologies and to get them psyched up about working with Apple.

A quick summary of this years event is, at best, a yawn – a new presentation of the latest point release of OS X, a browser for Windows and saying that iPhone won’t block AJAX based web pages. Yep. Yawn.

A longer summary is that Apple told their developers to, as Robert Scoble put it, "pound sand". (Although Scoble seems to believe there’s some magic and that Apple knows what they’re doing and they have a mysterious secret plan based on some odd trust that Steve Jobs is smarter and more benevolent than history would show)

I don’t think that secret, magic plan is there. I think Apple is doing their best to gracefully get out of the computer business (possibly by spinning off Macintosh to a joint venture with SUN)

What Apple offered their developers was:

  • An OS with a tiny user base (less people use Macintosh than believe the moon landing was faked on a sound stage).
  • An OS producer with lousy developer tools and even lousier developer outreach and evangelism.
  • An OS producer who touts that the solution to their lack of apps is that they have really good ways to run Windows apps. (Jobs actually listed the ability to run Windows apps using Bootcamp, Parallels and VMWare as one of the top ten features of the new version of OS X in his keynote opening the show)

Sound familiar?

Think IBM OS/2 where Big Blue did the same thing with their “Better Windows than Windows” marketing. For those of you not old enough to remember it, when nobody was developing OS/2 applications, IBM pushed OS/2 as a better platform for running Windows apps than Windows 95. And it was pretty good at it. Good enough that nobody bothered writing native OS/2 apps. OS/2 customers were, at best, a marginal part of the customer base and since the Windows Apps everyone was already writing ran acceptably on both platforms there was no real benefit to explicitly writing for OS/2.

The results were, of course, totally predictable. Nobody developed any new applications for OS/2, OS/2 died a slow and painful death and almost took IBM with it and thus ended the OS Wars of the early ’90s.

So, lets look at the message Apple gave their developers at their annual developer love fest…

“Isn’t it funny how few copies of Vista have been sold” followed by the announcement (for those who can do basic arithmetic) that OS X has, in all versions combined, a smaller installed base than Vista had after one month.

Hey, we’ve got a great story about running Windows apps on our new version of Mac OS X for those of you who want to give up on writing OS X apps and want to write only for Windows.

So, now that you realize it’s silly to invest in OS X, perhaps you’d like to develop for our one actually successful product, the iPod? Nope. That’s not going to happen.

Alright, before you decide to throw us into San Francisco Bay, we’ve decided that the new mass market product that we’re going to hype a lot is not going to be totally closed like we threatened. And hey, despite all those stories, we’re here to remind you it runs real OS X just like you already use and develop for on Macintosh. So, take all those OS X dev skills you’ve learned, take all that Carbon and Cocoa and any other C words you’ve learned, take all that C and C++ and Objective C skills and…

Toss them out into the Bay.

Yes, if you want to write for our only new product likely to sell in significant numbers…
We expect you to have NO advantage from being Apple Registered Developers.
We expect you to have NO advantage for spending lots of money to come here.
We expect you to have NO advantage for being loyal to Apple through good times and bad.
We hope you’ve been spending your time learning JavaScript and AJAX rather than wasting it learning OS X.
We have decided that you can write some web pages and we won’t block the scripting.

Yes, you, along with every person out there who learned AJAX and JavaScript, is now starting on an equal footing to develop mediocre half-apps. Oh, and remember that your Web Apps will have to compete against the real apps that we, and a select group of partners that we actually like, have developed with the real SDK and tools that we used to write the bundled apps.

Have a nice conference…

Scoble’s "go pound sand" is a very nice way of saying what they told their Developer Partners.

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