Switch to MacTel: Easy or Not?

by Derrick Story

I was just thinking about Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen's comments on c|net.com where he was quoted, "Steve (Jobs) likes to trivialize the process and make it seem easy, but moving the apps over is not that easy...". Although Chizen remarked that "in the long run it's going to be great," his overall tone was not exactly optimistic.

A week earlier, I had read a compelling argument by Rich Siegel, CEO and founder of Bare Bones Software. In his piece, Siegel said, "...it's much easier to adapt your code for a new CPU architecture because the OS really protects you from all that. I think if they had tried to switch from PPC to Intel back in the [Mac OS] 8 or 9 days, it would have been a much bigger challenge for a lot of people."

When I was being interviewed by Gene Steinberg on The Tech Night Owl, he asked me, "which is it -- easy or not?"

This is the beginning of what will be a long discussion. But the short answer is: "That depends on your code now." Developers who were able to merge on to Apple's Cocoa/Xcode roadmap will probably make the transition with a minimum of hair loss. So, much of the recent software for Mac OS X should be ready for the first MacTel machines. Other legacy apps, such as Photoshop, face a much steeper hill. And Chizen's points should be viewed in the light that Photoshop was a Mac app long before Xcode was a twinkle in Apple's eye.

It's something to keep in mind as you read the back and forth discussions about the transition to the Intel processor.


2005-09-02 09:52:46
very frusterating.
One of the things I found especially frustrating about some sites reporting the news about the origional Bruce Chizen interview is that people are saying, "HAH! Steve lied about the process being easy!" when actually Steve said that it was going to be easy for some and less easy for others depending on the software used to code your software. For example, if codewarrior was used rather than xcode, the transition may be more dificult. I can't blame Adobe for choosing codewarrior over xcode when making the transition after OS X was released... xcode wasn't available.

The perceptions generated by the news are just another example of Apple getting the short end of the perception stick because people are less familiar with Apple, they didn't hear what Steve origionally said, and its so much easier to suggest that Steve lied than to weigh the actual evidence.

2005-09-02 10:02:18
RE: very frusterating.
Yes, I've had similar thoughts and felt like now is the time to start this discussion where we can get more informed POVs from developers who are actually working on the transition. Yes, some of this stuff is under NDA. But I think we can begin by talking about the broad brush strokes.

Thanks for your comments...

2005-09-02 18:07:15
It's the testing, stupid
Even though I cannot directly cite Chizen, he seems to be widely misquoted/misunderstood. AFAIR, in the interview he mentioned, that the necessary testing would make it impossible to deliver an Intel version of the current suite, CS2.

And he is right. Testing an application suite like CS2 cannot be fully automated, and cannot be accomplished in a day. A product like this takes several months to be fully tested, and this is simply to long considering Adobes recent 12 month/release cycle to be done on the fly for a product already out in the market.

And that is all he said. He didn't complain about porting being so difficult. All he said is, they will have an Intel version ready of the next shipping release, which happens to be not right tomorrow, and maybe even after Apple starts selling Intel Macs. It may not be too long, anyway.

Anyhow, the way the press snaps this up, totally misleads technically challenged people, implying things like Steve Jobs lied or such. Actually, Apple has brilliant material out there concerning the switch, you can watch a whole bunch of WWDC sessions, read tons of good material.

In session 401, Chris Espinosa says quite clearly, what developers have to expect during their transision: XCode, GCC4, very few API changes, endianess. That's it for coding. Might not be easy, if you have to go the whole path, but definitely seems possible. But then he simply says: "and then, test it". This is the bombshell, Steve didn't so explicitely talk about, because it is a no brainer, that this has to be done when switching development environments. Guess why Office/Mac still isn't Mach-O, as a side-thought. Still, yet, this is, for most of the bigger projects, the most time consuming part, because simply because an app compiles under Intel, thanks to endianess it can potentially misbehave anywhere, and might even do so unnoticed. This will be a problem for a long time, and while it only concerns code that directly deals with byte order, will create most of the funniest side effects on the mac platform yet to come.

Just my thoughts...
2005-09-02 19:16:59
RE: very frusterating.
Yes, Derek, it's very frustrating. When Steve Jobs gets up on stage at WWDC and shows off Mathematica running on Intel after a few hours of work, every developer in the room knows that it's going to take months of testing before any of us would be willing to ship a product even after we've gotten to the point where it compiles, links and boots. We also know that for some of us, getting to the point where our apps compile, link and boot is going to be a hard row to hoe.

None of that's frustrating in and of itself. What is frustrating is the customer backlash that's going to come when some of us don't have our apps ready when Intel-based Macs hit the market. That backlash is inevitable largely because, in the minds of customers and a handful of not particularly savvy members of the press (present company excluded), Jobs made it look as though it would be easy.

None of this means that Jobs lied, or in any way, intentionally misled the public on this. After all, his audience was the developer community, not end users. There are, however, times when developers get caught between what Steve said and what the public thinks he said.

And, it's frustrating, because you really can't lay the blame for this at anyone's feet, though there are some members of the press who really ought to know better (again, present company excluded).

2005-09-02 19:18:47
RE: very frusterating.
Mea Culpa for misspelling your name, Derrick.
2005-09-03 00:04:54
In the meantime...
I run Photoshop 7 on my DTK under Rosetta and for the amateur its good enough. Actually, even the pro that stopped in to show us some logo variations had no problem with it and didn't even realize it wasn't a regular PowerMac.

My guess is the transition isn't nearly as bad as the Adobe guy thinks it is. He already has to test on a lot of operating systems anyway.

2005-09-03 23:43:04
Adobe's complaining about *this*?
Compared to some of the weird ports that Adobe has done over the years, that they are complaining about having a good 1-2 years to move to a new processor on a very abstracted OS just doesn't make sense. Adobe used to make Photoshop (v2.5 and 3) and Illustrator for SGI IRIX on MIPS! A totally different CPU, on a very different OS. Plus, Photoshop for Windows was in its infancy at that stage too. Also, as I remember, Adobe ported Photoshop over to Rhapsody's Yellow Box (which became Cocoa) back when Apple was pushing it as the client OS of the near future. That was really just a keynote showoff, but I remember that it took weeks to do--nothing minor. Now, Adobe has lots of time to migrate to a new processor that they already support on another OS. CS2 will work on the MacTels...not great, but it'll work. They've got plenty of time and plenty of in-house experience. Make it happen.