Bedrock Has Developers Wary; MacApp Community Waits for Answers
Apple Supports Symantec Corp.'s Bedrock Program Development Environment
By Bruce Schneier
Cupertino, Calif. -- The Mac developer community has been bubbling with speculations, questions and, in some cases, fear since Apple last month gave its blessing to Symantec Corp.'s Bedrock cross-platform development framework.
Not surprisingly, developers who have followed Apple's often-repeated advice and adopted its current application framework, MacApp, have the most questions.
"There is a lot of concern" among MacApp developers, said Jeff Alger, a Palo Alto, Calif., consultant and former chairman of the MacApp Developers Association (now MADA). "Apple is being secretive about Bedrock in ways that they haven't been [with MacApp]."
Like MacApp, Bedrock is designed to provide a common set of objects, or software building blocks, that provide the structure for an application. Such object libraries enable developers to quickly implement program interfaces and devote more effort to the unique aspects of their application.
What's different about Bedrock, which Symantec has been developing and using internally for more than two and a half years, is that it was designed from the beginning for cross-platform development. According to last month's announcement, the new framework initially will support both the Mac and Microsoft Windows, with future versions adding support for OS/2, Unix and Windows NT.
Source or No Source
Since Version 1.0, MacApp has shipped with source code, which many MacApp developers say has been vital to them, since it allows them to analyze the workings of the framework's objects and modify them to fit the needs of their application.
"We would never have been able to ship OmniPage Professional and OmniPage Direct if we had not had the source to MacApp," said Wade Eilrich, manager of Mac projects at Caere Corp. of Los Gatos, Calif.
But Symantec, based here, and Apple said they have not yet determined whether source code will be included with Bedrock.
Many MacApp developers are adamant about the issue. "With present technology, source code is the only way to achieve the level of understanding necessary to effectively use the application framework," said Bruce Toback, president of OPT Inc., a Mac software development company in Mesa, Ariz. Eric Hanig, senior software engineer at Siemens Gammasonics Inc. of Hoffman Estates, Ill., agreed. "When we find a MacApp bug, we can usually modify the code to override it; we can't afford to wait months for Apple or Symantec to fix a Bedrock bug," he said.
Other developers disagree, though saying that source code isn't
"MacApp has made programmers dependent on the source code, because it is a complicated application framework and the documentation is not up to snuff," said Mike Bentley, president of Crenelle Inc., a Chicago developer. "If Bedrock ships without source code, it is going to have to be very robust, and the documentation is going to have to be more detailed than MacApp's."
Aaron Rosenbaum, president of Gamma Inc., a MacApp development company in Alexandria, Va., pointed to NeXT Computer Inc.'s NeXT-step as an effective application framework that is not shipped with source code. "The design [of NeXT step] is simpler, so it doesn't require as much support as MacApp," he said.
MacApp developers also wonder whether the switch to Bedrock will alleviate a long-standing problem with MacApp: long delays in adding support for the latest system-software innovations.
Nick Nallick, a MacApp contract programmer working for 3M Co. in St. Paul, Minn., cited an example: "The QuickTime engineers weren't charged with making it work with MacApp, and the MacApp engineers weren't charged with making that work with QuickTime.
"Apple needs to make a high-level corporate commitment to support an object-oriented framework to the extent that they support the interfaces to the Toolbox," he said.
Bedrock's cross-platform character could complicate the picture. It is supposed to allow developers to take advantage of each platform's special features and capabilities, according to Apple and Symantec, but developers wonder how this will affect portability. Apple has indicated it will port some of the Mac technology, such as QuickTime, to Windows, but other Mac innovations, such as the OCE (Open Collaboration Environment), Apple events and QuickDraw GX, have no analog in Windows.
What about MacApp? For years Apple told developers that MacApp is the way of the future. Now it has abruptly switched its bets to a new technology. Both Apple and Symantec have promised support and tools to ease the transition, but some developers of the change. the implications of the change.
"We need to know what the difference are," said Crenelle's Bentley. Gamma's Rosenbaum said, "It's not going to pay to switch until we can do the old things easier and do new things in the new environment."
Karl May, marketing manager of frameworks at Apple, said developers should not feel compelled to switch immediately. "We recommend that current developers continue to use MacApp. A lot of the skills will transfer."
Information in Demand
Apple officials said it is simply too early to answer all the questions that are causing anxiety among developers. "Much of the product details haven't been determined," said a representative. "More information will be available in the first half of 1993."
Unfortunately, the first half of '93 is the current projected ship date for Bedrock.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc.