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TUAW Interview series: Brent Simmons on the Leopard delay - does it change anything?

David Chartier

Apple's announcement that Leopard has been delayed until October was quite the shocker, especially since we apparently have the iPhone to thank. This of course elicited nearly every response you can think of from every walk of life, but we don't often hear from what I feel is one of the most important building blocks of the Mac OS X community: 3rd party developers. Sure, developers blog about stuff like this on their own, but not everyone is down for sifting through posts about the inner workings of Mac OS X for the insightful opinion pieces on what things like a Leopard delay mean to Apple and its users. And that isn't a bad thing, especially since it inspired me to bring the developers' thoughts to you in an interview series with some of Mac OS X's biggest hitters, including Wil Shipley (co-founder of Omni Group and Delicious Monster), Paul Kafasis (CEO of Rogue Amoeba), Gus Mueller (of Flying Meat software) and Allan Odgaard (of Macromates).

I wanted to get their thoughts on Leopard, the iPhone and where Apple is headed as a company in light of Mac OS X delays and Apple's gadgets which would (or should) make great venues for their products. Thankfully, all the developers responded positively and offered some great insight on these issues. These guys have a unique perspective on the state of Apple and its products, and I'm thankful that they all took the time to lay it down as only a Mac OS X developer can.

First up (only because he was the first to reply) is Brent Simmons of NewsGator fame. Read on for thoughts from the man who brought RSS and blogging to the Mac masses with NetNewsWire and MarsEdit (which was acquired recently by Red Sweater Software).

TUAW: Many critics and general users are freaking out about the Leopard delay. They've been criticizing Apple for becoming less of a computer company and more of a gadget maker. Events like the dropping of 'Computer' from their name, and now the delay of their desktop OS, are fueling this in many people's eyes. Since it's a big topic, however, I wanted to open by getting your thoughts as a Mac OS X developer.

Brent: The iPhone is a small computer running OS X. The Apple TV is a somewhat larger computer that also runs OS X.

I think it's interesting that people didn't complain about Apple becoming a gadget company so much when it was just iPods and Airports -- but now that Apple is using OS X as the foundation for new devices, people are complaining that it's not a computers company. The irony is this: because these devices run OS X, they're not only computers, they're Macs in disguise.

Apple is innovating around the idea of what a Mac is and what it can be used for. They're also looking for (and, I think, finding) new ways to put Macs in the hands and living rooms of people who don't already use Macs.

If you've already gone Leopard-only with a product or two (or were considering it), does the October delay change that decision at all? Would it be worth it - or even possible - to switch gears/backtrack to build in 10.4 support and ship sooner?

I wasn't planning a Leopard-only product this year. If I had been, I probably would have just pushed back my ship date to October.

Had it been possible or worth it to make this hypothetical app work on 10.4, I wouldn't have made it Leopard-only in the first place.

Also as Mac OS X developers, what are your thoughts on the pseudo-closed nature of Apple's new gadgets? The Apple TV isn't officially a 3rd party device, but it appears as though Apple has left the door wide open. The iPhone, as far as we know, is still a closed device. Do you want to develop for these devices? Any product ideas you care to share?

I would love to develop for the iPhone. My product ideas: all the apps Apple isn't going to do. They're going to do a number of apps -- probably really, really well. But there's still a universe of apps they won't do.

Do you think Apple should have designed at least one or the other to be wide open to 3rd parties with a publicized plugin architecture? Should the company modify this practice with its future peripheral/gadget offerings?

I'd love it if we could write Cocoa apps for the iPhone.

From your experience with this delay, do you have any advise for budding developers in terms of building their software for one or more versions of Mac OS X? Should they put all their bytes in one basket, or support at least one previous version?

I would recommend either supporting the current OS only or current-minus-one. (Of course, Leopard isn't current today, but developers plan ahead.)

The details make the difference. Your app might depend absolutely on some things that are new in Leopard. If so, go Leopard-only. If not, go 10.4 and up. (You can, after all, still use some Leopard features in that case.)

The kind of Mac users who buy software also upgrade their OS pretty quickly.

Any closing thoughts on the Leopard delay, Apple's direction as a company or the impact of the iPhone? On the latter, be honest: is your credit card already eager and waiting? Or are you sticking with your [insert mobile phone here, if you have one]?

I've been an Apple fanboy since 1980 -- and don't see any reason to stop. And yes, I'll be getting an iPhone. (I was on the verge of buying a Treo 700p when Apple announced the iPhone. I didn't get the Treo.)


That's it for my interview with Brent Simmons on the Leopard delay, and I'd like to thank him again for taking the time to answer my questions. Finally, to you dear reader: if you read this far, stay tuned, as there's a lot more where this came from.

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