Curl adds runtime support for Mac environments

Curl, maker of a framework for building rich Internet applications, said Tuesday that it is now supporting Macintosh environments, citing “rapidly increasing penetration” of the platform in enterprises.

Curl’s platform, which is aimed squarely at enterprises, consists of an eponymous programming language, an IDE (integrated development environment) for building applications, and runtimes for executing the programs on client machines. The new Mac runtime, available as a free download, is compatible with Power PC and Intel Macintoshes running OS 10.4 and higher, Curl said.

“As we watch Apple whittle away at Microsoft’s dominant position, it behooves us to start supporting that platform sooner than later,” said Richard Monson-Haefel, vice president of developer relations.

He noted that Curl already had runtime support for Windows and Linux. The move to Apple is “a matter of completing our cross-platform story,” he said.

But at least for now, the Apple chapter of that tale may be brief.

A recent Forrester Research survey found that the percentage of enterprise users running Mac operating systems grew threefold in 2007 to 4.2 percent, but concluded that “uptake remains limited to enthusiasts and small workgroups.”

The new Mac runtime includes all the features present in Curl’s runtimes for Windows and Linux, including support for audio, 2-D and 3-D graphics and animation, and a compiler that transforms applications built with Curl into native code for maximum performance.

However, Curl’s IDE isn’t yet supported to run on Macintosh, meaning developers who prefer to work on those machines will have to wait. “That’s certainly a direction we’re heading. The [runtime] development was ahead of the IDE development,” Monson-Haefel said. “We’re looking at it slowly and at what our customer demand is.”

The company’s move to support Macintosh has two interesting angles, said Redmonk analyst Michael Coté.

“Curl is going for being the enterprise RIA player, sort of trying to niche itself out of competing with [Microsoft’s] Silverlight and Adobe. The thing is that their platform is ostensibly ready and mature, but they don’t have the brand power of Adobe and Microsoft.

“Given that they want to be the enterprise RIA people, their support of Macs is interesting because it implies that they see a sizable enough use of Macs in the enterprise to make money off it — or see growth in the near term therein,” he added. “Most people wouldn’t consider Macs an ‘enterprise’ deployment space and, thus, a platform to support. Now, developers of RIAs, sure, that’s a whole other story. But users is something slightly new.”

Also, Curl’s cross-platform emphasis should play well as the RIA market evolves, Coté predicted.

“At this point in the RIA wars, attracting developers is the big battle, and Windows-only toolchains … are at a disadvantage, as would be OS X or Linux only,” he said.

While much smaller than those vendors, Curl has about 300 “large enterprise deployments” and its platform, now in version 6.0, is more mature, Monson-Haefel said.

The vendor is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its platform is based on research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is owned by Sumisho Computer Systems, a Japanese company that bought it in 2004.

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