Monday, October 27, 2003


Sam Caughron at Proteron wrote a memo to Apple complaining that Apple didn’t credit Proteron’s LiteSwitch X when it developed Panther’s Command-Tab application switcher. By Proteron’s own words:

LiteSwitch has been called by some a Mac OS implementation of the Alt-Tab feature found in another unmentionable operating system, but LiteSwitch X offers a whole host of other features like drag and drop support, application exclusion, application termination and window layering control.

Thus, Proteron implicitly acknowledges that LiteSwitch was inspired by a Windows feature. Why doesn’t Caughron want Apple to credit Microsoft? Why does Proteron only credit Microsoft obliquely? Like Erik Barzeski says, I think Proteron should stop whining and instead tell us how much better LiteSwitch X is than Apple’s implementation.

By the way, I don’t see Proteron crediting Now Software’s NowMenus for the slick way that MaxMenus lets you assign keyboard shortcuts.

Caughron draws a comparison to Karelia’s Watson, which must now compete with Apple’s inferior but free Sherlock III. Apple has said that Sherlock III was in development before Watson, and Erik Barzeski corroborates this:

I saw Sherlock III before Dan Wood even began work on Watson, and [it] looked pretty much just as it ended up.

It’s not clear how Barzeski came by this information; was he working for Apple at the time?

In related news, Buzz Andersen expertly debunked a bizarre post, and somehow this got turned into a debate over his indie cred. You see, Andersen was a cool indie developer who wrote PodWorks, but now he’s sold out, joined the Borg collective, and can no longer be trusted. Or something like that.

The constructive part of the debate is the discussion of Apple’s tying practices. The iApps have always made me uncomfortable because, unlike Safari, I don’t think their functionality belongs in the OS. The iApps encroach on third-party turf. Robb Beal is probably the most vocal critic along these lines. The opposing position is that Apple thinks these are important apps that will sell Macs, thus aiding the platform and us all. As Andersen says:

What Microsoft did with Internet Explorer was clearly aimed at undermining a rival: Netscape. What Apple has done with the iApps is very different. They’re all about making absolutely sure that people have lots of reasons to buy a Mac. Apple did not create the iApps to “cut off some developer’s air.” What logical reason would Apple have to intentionally and single-mindedly undermine people creating apps for it’s [sic] platform? To spite them?

This is a complex issue, and I don’t have the answers. It’s certainly possible that the “free” iApps “saved” Apple and the Mac platform when the hardware was iffy. But perhaps it would have been better if Apple had pursued a middle-of-the-road strategy, whereby they developed the iApps but didn’t tie them to the OS. They could have been sold individually, or as an iLife Plus Pack. Would that have pleased the critics and encouraged competition? It’s hard to say. There were, and continue to be, many products that compete with .Mac Backup, but I have yet to see anyone take on the $99 Keynote.

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Followup thought: how would things be different now if Apple had continued to make OS upgrades free? If they didn't have to justify the $130 every 12-18 months, perhaps they wouldn't try to put so much stuff in the OS. And if people weren't already paying for OS upgrades, they'd be more likely to pay for stuff like iTunes a la carte.

Great post!

Buzz is as credible as anyone thinks he is on any given subject. I didn't find him credible in rebutting Canter.

I have zero problem competing with any product that is made available separately at a price that reasonably reflects the cost of producing it.

Buzz's attempt at whitewashing the tied iApps doesn't resonate with me. We have at least 10-15 years of history in personal computing that tells us that when an OS vendor ties functionality to the OS, other vendors providing that functionality go out of business (in the case of single product companies). Apple's executives aren't ignorant of that history.

Michael, the destruction of large swaths of the Mac culture is a really compelling story. I hope you continue to cover it!

Thanks for posting that--I'm glad I'm not the only one who found last night's debate a little ridiculous.

I'm really not a person who likes to be on bad terms with people. Since I have gone to Apple, though, you have consistently gone out of your way to antagonize me. Up until last night, I always made a point of not responding to the nasty little comments you leave on my weblog from time to time, but your latest attack on my "credibility" was not something I could suffer gladly.

I really bear no ill will toward you or any other indie developer, and was quite happy considering you a friend. Since your narrow worldview (Apple and everything associated with it == Death Star) seems to make that impossible, however, I guess I'm going to have to reconcile myself to the fact that it's not going to happen.

I hope you're happy that you finally managed to provoke a response out of me.

I think some perspective is necessary. There's nothing stopping someone from trashing the entire iSuite and not using it. Yeah, some parts of the OS in the system prefs may seem a little out of place, but the OS won't "break" like MS claimed Windows would if stripped of Internet Explorer or WMP. There's a pretty big difference, there, and as Buzz pointed out, Apple certainly as heck has never put the iApps out there "to cut off their air supply" or whatnot.

FWIW, the iApps do sell Macs. A lot of 'em. Oftentimes they're all that's needed.

The Proteron people, well, I'm glad Michael agrees. I have trouble understanding how anyone else could see it differently.

Finally, re: Sherlock - I knew someone on the team and saw a bit of it at a WWDC many whiles ago. I was not employed by Apple at the time.

About the point raised by Erik: "I think some perspective is necessary. There's nothing stopping someone from trashing the entire iSuite and not using it. Yeah, some parts of the OS in the system prefs may seem a little out of place, but the OS won't "break" like MS claimed Windows would if stripped of Internet Explorer or WMP."

While I mostly agree with the majority here - and I like iApps and Apple -, I see a (slight, for the moment) concern in the fact that in Panther you have to use Apple's to choose what will be your primary mail application, Apple's Safari to choose what will be your primary net browser, and Apple's Image Capture to choose which application will launch when a digital photo device is connected.
These options should be located in the System Preferences, not in the Preferences of Apple's own iApps.

[This said, I admit I gladly use Safari, and iPhoto ;-)]

Leaving aside the philosophical implications, I can give a real life practical example of why this is a bad idea. On my main Mac Safari has been completely hosed since shortly after I upgraded to 10.3 (it won't launch, all standard troubleshooting hasn't helped). Fortunately, my default web browser was set to Camino at the time (lately I tend to switch between Camino, Firebird & Safari fairly frequently), but if it had been set to Safari it would have been a pain.

BTW, If you miss "Internet Config" you can still set protocol helpers (and add new protocols) with Monkey Food Software's freeware "More Internet Preferences" System Preference pane.

Seems to work fine under Panther.

What specific independent software developer did Apple put out of business with the iApps? Who was making something that could compete with iMovie? Adobe? Premier was neither deisigned nor priced with the consumer in mind. iPhoto. There was no equivalent. Apple bought out the competition to make iTunes. Audion was the casuality there, but I haven't heard Panic crying. iDVD? Don't make me laugh.

How long was Apple supposed to wait for its independent developers to fill these niches, before they took it upon themselves? Sorry folks, with Microsoft looming over the scene Apple can't wait for you to fill needs that they see need to be filled.

Take a lesson from the Omni Group and make do.

I imagine iTunes hurt Panic, but they're too classy to whine about it. I think it's great that Apple is filling these niches, but I don't think it's good (in the long run, for the platform) to make the iApps free products, all bundled with the operating system. iMovie, iPhoto, and the others have problems and limitations, but it's unlikely that third parties will develop anything better because it's so hard to compete with free products that come pre-installed. And since Apple has eliminated possible competition, it has little incentive to improve these products, except to help sell OS upgrades.

Michael= "I imagine iTunes hurt Panic, but they're too classy to whine about it."
Yes, the main difference between Panic and Proteron is class. And imagination. And respect.
Plus, the Panic guys are a lot more fun.

iTunes hurts Audion, indeed. It used to be my favorite "leisure app", since version 2 up to version 3… I don't use it anymore…

Stumbled upon this old post and take issue with: "By the way, I don’t see Proteron crediting Now Software’s NowMenus for the slick way that MaxMenus lets you assign keyboard shortcuts."

It was definitely acknowledged at the time: "At MacWorld in San Francisco, Proteron announced MaxMenus, a new utility for Mac OS X which adds powerful, flexible menus to the OS X user interface. The menus, which harken back to legacy OS 9 products such as Now Menus and ACTION Menus, are highly customizable and streamline access to common items." -

I believe Proteron was looking for a press event here -- any news is good news if it gets people talking. LiteSwitch X, which was initially freeware meant to promote Proteron, ended up being much more popular than the flagship MaxMenus product. When this story went to press I had already left Proteron and been an Apple employee for over a year. As the sole author of the original versions of LiteSwitch X & MaxMenus, development drastically slowed down with me out of the picture. I'm happy they continued to have a long life all the way until 32-bit frameworks were removed from the OS (both were highly Carbon-based. I have yet to find replacements that function as well.

@Ammon Wow, thanks for the correction so many years later, and for the great apps.

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