As we reported Wednesday, real estate agents in Colorado who use a Macintosh will no longer be able to access the MLS database with the newly designed Internet based system that’s about to go live next month. The folks at IRES — the hosts of the database system in a secured site accessible only by agents with passwords — recommend that Mac users take advantage of Virtual PC as a workaround for the situation.
“The initial release of our Internet based system was written for Internet Explorer 5.x, based on recommendations from our developers,” Lauren Emery, CEO of IRES, told MacCentral. “We designed the system to the ‘industry standard’ of IE because the majority now use Internet Explorer. I myself challenged the approach, since I happen to be a loyal Netscape user. But I also understand that design parameters need to be defined within a reasonable budget and time frame for the initial launch.”
For now, Mac users are able to use the system if they have Virtual PC software installed, Emory said.
“The door is open down the road to accommodate Netscape and Mac users,” Emory added. “No formal decision has been made regarding either since our hands are quite full with the launch scheduled next week. I anticipate the decision to expand the browsers supported would be treated as any other system change or enhancement — by weighing the cost and benefits.”
Scott Mesch, president of StarPlay Productions isn’t a real estate agent, but he isn’t happy with the development.
“Since the Internet is the largest application for personal computers today, it behooves Apple to put whatever resources necessary to make sure that Mac browsers can access and work with ‘any’ Internet site, even if they have to license technology from Microsoft,” he said. “I hope that Mac OS X will be ‘beefed-up’ in this area. Otherwise, more and more users will be forced to Windows. And that’s not good for any of us.”
Speaking of Mac OS X, given the Web-based implementation of the new MLS database and its lack of compatibility with Macs, Christopher Yau Choy Young of the Ozone Project at Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute thinks the new system uses Java 2, which is not implemented on the Mac OS prior to Mac OS X.
“However, it is implemented in Mac OS X, so these guys may be able to simply upgrade their system to Mac OS X on the 24th, and be back in business,” he said.
Meanwhile, realtor Tim Stone said that the Colorado development isn’t unique. A similar thing happened in Georgia two years ago, he said.
“The Georgia MLS system was formerly a database accessible via a terminal application and maintained by Moore Data Systems,” Stone told MacCentral. “This allowed the MLS records to be fully searched on any computer capable of a terminal connection (Windows, UNIX and Mac). Unfortunately, Moore Data switched to a browser accessible system, shutting out UNIX and Mac users as well as Netscape users.”
The new system was developed on proprietary technologies from Microsoft and offered absolutely no support to other platforms or applications, he said. Moore Data further made matters difficult by requiring users of its databases to connect through a BellSouth account, requiring many realtors to maintain two ISP accounts (one with their provider of choice and another with BellSouth) or drop their provider of choice and open a BellSouth account, Stone added. Moore Data refused to listen to its Mac and UNIX subscriber base.
“This kind of technology upgrade, and the manner in which they are developed, shows a blatant and tactless disregard for users (customers), as well as being a slap in the face to the open nature of the Internet,” Stone said. “It is understood by me that the information in these databases must be available to everyone. I have believed for two years (since the GA MLS upgrade) that nothing short of a class action lawsuit by Mac and UNIX users will turn around the companies providing the MLS data. It is unfortunate path to have to take, but it must be considered. Making noise and writing letters to the state’s representatives may well help as well.”
It is even more unfortunate that there are integrators out there that are so “Microsoft centric” that other platforms are not considered in development of information services, he added.