Developers Excited, Anxious about OS X

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As Apple rolls out its beta release of the long-awaited Mac OS X, Mac software companies around the world are frantically trying to get their own applications working natively on this next generation of the Mac OS.

In brief, Mac OS X offers a handful of environments in which applications can run: Cocoa, Carbon and Classic. Cocoa and Carbon feature the new much-talked-about, candy-coated environment, Aqua, that Apple introduced in January. Carbon is a go-between environment that lets developers update their current Mac applications so that they can run natively on Mac OS X. Finally, there is Classic, which is for applications that haven't, or won't be, updated.

Our initial search for companies that will have beta versions of their software to go with the Mac OS X beta turned up less than pleasing results, but built a lot of faith in the newest OS.

Macromedia, earlier this month, demonstrated development builds of Fireworks and Dreamweaver running in Carbon, and gave a demonstration of the Flash Player running on Mac OS X. At the same time, Macromedia also announced its plans to fully support Mac OS X in FreeHand, Director, and the Shockwave player. But as of this week, the company has no comment on when these applications will be available.

Adobe, which demonstrated a Carbonized version of InDesign running on Mac OS X in May, also declined to state when its applications will hit the market in Carbonized form.

That same story was true for other companies as well. Although most of the developers we talked to declined to comment on the record, virtually all are hard at work bringing out Carbonized versions of their software and drivers. Yet, most noted that they have no immediate plans to roll out beta products anytime soon.

This is particularly true of hardware developers who have to develop new drivers for Mac OS X. Wacom, one company that was willing to talk to us on the record, says it's very unlikely to release a driver for the Mac OS X beta release.

Company spokesman Scott Rawlings noted that Wacom did not have adequate information to support the level of functionality needed for a tablet driver in order to roll one out in conjunction with Apple's beta. However, Rawlings explained that Wacom is "100 percent committed to OS X," is working very closely with Apple, and anticipates supporting Mac OS X eventually.

Officials of Dantz, makers of Retrospect backup software, said that though the company plans to fully support Mac OS X, it will not have a beta release of its software ready with Apple's OS X beta release announcement. However, Dantz representatives did say the company hopes to announce something Mac OS X-related soon.

Representatives of game maker Aspyr, maker of The Sims, said the company is very excited about supporting Mac OS X, but won't have anything in beta form soon.

Representatives of Qualcomm's Eudora division said they hope to have a fully Carbonized version of Eudora 5.0 by the end of the year.

Quark representatives said that version 5.0 of XPress, due out in beta form shortly and expected to ship early next year, will not be a Carbonized application. However, the company plans to have Carbon support available as the first upgrade patch to XPress 5.0.

If you're looking to start writing shareware or other applications for or in Mac OS X, a solution is already here: RealBasic version 3 from Real Software. Currently in alpha release 7, RealBasic will not only run natively in Mac OS X, it will now compile applications for Windows, Mac OS 68K, PowerPC, and Carbon. Carbon-compiled applications can run in both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X.

RealBasic Product manager Lorin Rivers said he is very excited about Mac OS X. "It's really cool," Rivers said, and said he's "looking forward to [seeing] OS X shareware." Rivers said his company is very committed to the new OS, and will offer full support of Mac OS X as it becomes available. Currently, RealBasic will not have access to Mac OS X specific technologies like the Quartz display engine, but that support will come in later releases.

That, in a nutshell, appears to be the story with Mac OS X-native software: a lot of companies are waiting, just as many users are, for the beta to arrive. Over the next few months, Mac OS X-native applications should begin appearing. The trickle begins on September 13.

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