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Oh The Focus
something the next generation of computing science should be built on.
Roughly Drafted have a great piece on Apple and Microsoft. This is a good piece and is not the target of 'because you're stupid'. It's eminently researched and the illustrations are riot.
There are a lot of angles to this piece but one of the main ones seems to be how both companies have mismanaged markets - and now it's Microsoft's turn. Both companies played splish splash 'in the Nile' and now it's Microsoft swimming with the crocs.
Another angle is how appearances may deceive when it comes to Apple's miniscule market share. And it all starts with a great quote reminiscent of the old 'no one was ever sacked for recommending IBM'.
Some analysts are nostalgic for the days when they could appear intelligent merely by gushing about everything from Microsoft. They felt safe in recommending everything the company released, knowing that there were no real alternatives, and that anything the company could deliver would more or less have to be purchased.
There's also an indirect link to the teleplay for Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition so you know you're in good hands. And the article cited above is peppered with links to other great articles, one of which is included below. This is not fanboy journalism - this is good stuff.
But perspectives and points of view differ and although Daniel Eran may be objectively interested in the fate of Cupertino and Redmond he ostensibly has no overriding vested interest in the outcome - unlike this site.
The focus here has never been on a company - it's on a technology. A technology for developers. For anyone enthusiastically proclaiming today that OS X is the best thing since sliced bread is only scratching the tip of the iceberg.
The usability wars will come and go with the Grubers and the Siracusae arguing whether the window corners on the new iTunes are better than before or whether the system vendor's idea of a file manager is suitable for general use but the point they're all circumventing - perhaps even Daniel Eran - is that with the underlying system all things are possible.
And that these small details don't amount to a hill of beans - in fact Apple themselves don't amount to a hill of beans either.
Security is one thing and as just another 'uwag' - 'Unix with a GUI' - OS X is going to fare as well as the rest. Windows will never touch Unix in terms of security and it's pretty bloody obvious that if everyone connected through Unix boxes this would be a calmer and safer planet.
But security is only one of those boring essentials - and once you've addressed it you can move on to bigger and better things. And in the case of OS X that's a lot.
All platforms rely on a symbiosis between user and developer but no system - save for ancestor Smalltalk - has ever come so far as OS X. And we're not talking margins here - we're talking universes. Anyone who's ever worked with some of those other development environments will nod in recognition - and remember that recurring haunting feeling 'this is simply wrong'.
There are a lot of reasons OS X is light years ahead of the pack: Interface Builder, Objective-C, the graphic layer, the incredibly systematic organisation of the base frameworks, and so forth. The construction of those classes represents one of the best and tidiest projects in the history of computer science. That project can sit at the same table as Unix itself - it's that good.
OS X was never built for speed - had Apple wanted speed they could have gone with BeOS. OS X was built for efficiency and flexibility - not just today and tomorrow but way way way down the line. It doesn't take a seasoned developer long to see what consistency there is in the OS X frameworks - how learning to use one element means you just learnt tens more.
And you might remember the chaos and confusion on other platforms - GNOME, KDE, Windows - and you suddenly realise 'we should all have started here'. For development for OS X just works - it's insanely great.
It's really hard to assess how much pain and suffering dependence on other platforms - C++ being a prime example - has caused and it's almost impossible to convince grunts still working on those platforms what they're missing. A bit of Plato and the Myth of the Cave. But it is considerable and it's the number one reason development is in such a tailspin today.
And eons ago Alan Kay had the answer to it all and he looked at the ancestor of C++ and he said 'NO WAY' and he invented a new language instead. And Jean-Marie Hullot responded to the 'SOS' call and changed the way developers worked in a graphical development environment.
And some people have been lured by the eye candy of OS X and some have been convinced but support and approval from the programming community at large has been lacking because most of those grunts couldn't bother looking over the fence to see the verdure of the grass on this side.
If they ever do cast a glance then it's game over. They need incentives and a push - they need suits to tell them 'go and take that course and learn that shit we see it coming now' - and for that to happen the market has to start tipping.
But at the end of the day it's not about the survival of a company. It's about the technology - the technology behind OS X. A technology that's of incredible benefit to developer and user both. For with that technology the 'challenger' can do things the bully of the market will never be able to do.
And even suits will be impressed - the day they finally look under the bonnet. The day they finally take a real look.
Given the possibilities of OS X in general there's no way but no way any serious corporation worth its stock can not choose it for general in house use. No way. It's easier, the development crew have it better, software gets made quicker and works more reliably - none of this is new.
TBL said without it there might not be a world wide web today. ID Software said there might not be DOOM. Lotus said there couldn't be Improv.
This is a technology - not a product. It's a technology like the C programming language is a technology, like Unix itself is a technology, like the personal computer is a technology. And while companies can still market it, it's something that should be available to all.
It's something the next generation of computing science should be built on.
And that, at any rate, is where the focus is here.
Rixstep: The NeXTonian
Roughly Drafted: Why Apple Failed
Roughly Drafted: Can Apple Take Microsoft in the Battle for the Desktop?