Tiger Presents New Opportunities for Developers

by Derrick Story

I recently had a good phone conversation with Chris Bourdon, the senior product line manager for the Tiger project at Apple Computer. A few days later he was the opening speaker at the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference.

In his feature presentation, "The Tiger Project," Chris provided an inside look at where the Tiger project stands now, and discussed some of its most promising technologies. For those of you who weren't able to attend the conference, I'm going to cover the highlights from his talk, plus incorporate some additional information gleaned from our phone call.

Tiger: A New Level of Innovation

Panther has provided us with a modern, stable operating system. Now that this foundation is built, Apple has been able to put even more energy into innovation on the platform.

I asked Chris to highlight the new technologies he thought would be of particular interest to the O'Reilly audience. Here are highlights of what he discussed.

Chris Bourdon Chris Bourdon spoke at the recent Mac OS X Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. He provided the audience with an updated overview of Tiger's tantalizing features.

The Importance of Developer Feedback

No doubt, Apple has assembled topnotch engineers who have both talent and vision. So many of their ideas spawn from the energy of these interactions. But Chris also discussed during the phone interview how Apple relies heavily on the independent developer community outside of Cupertino.

A top-of-mind example was the evolution of the synching functionality. Apple provided iSync, which allowed synchronization among its computers and many devices, such as PDAs, smartphones, the iPod, etc. It's also a popular feature of .Mac. But the developer community wanted to be able to incorporate this technology into their apps too, taking this functionality to a new level. That was great feedback, and Apple is making its synching technology available in Tiger as a result.

These interactions with developers are important to maintaining the vitality of the platform.

Tiger in Comparison to Longhorn and Linux on the Desktop

Many of us believe that Mac OS X is driving innovation on the desktop. Apple has made the transition to its modern operating system and can now focus on elevating the platform to new heights in computing. At the same time, it appears that Microsoft is still years away from making the transition, let alone refining it.

Chris thinks that some pundits in technology look at the desktop possibilities with Linux and they get excited. But in reality, Apple has most of those possibilities already built-in to Mac OS X. Plus users have the convenience of plug-and-play, refined productivity apps, excellent UI, and much more.

In the end, many people view Mac OS X on the desktop as the best of both worlds.

The Pace of Innovation

During the phone conversation with Chris, I mentioned that many of the developers here at O'Reilly Media also agree that Mac OS X is the best of both worlds. But I sometimes wonder how long Apple can keep up this tremendous pace of innovation. Since 2001, Apple has blown away the competition in this regard. So I asked Chris what makes him optimistic, if indeed he is, that Apple can maintain this pace?

Chris replied that innovation is at the core of everything they do at Apple. Mac OS X v10.4, Tiger, will be the most important release for developers since Mac OS X was first released in 2001.

In his view Tiger is loaded with a number of cutting-edge technologies that translate into new and interesting opportunities for almost every type of developer. In fact, developers working with prerelease versions of Tiger -- ADC Select and Premier members -- are already finding innovative ways to use the powerful new features, APIs, and frameworks. The latest Tiger build just became available for these developers to deliver innovative new applications when Tiger ships in the first half of 2005.

Final Thoughts

I suspect that Tiger will be popular with current Mac users. But I think the real benefit of Mac OS X 10.4 will be realized as users discover the massive new wave of innovative, Tiger-ready applications from independent developers, many of whom are working with prerelease versions of Tiger right now. I think 2005 is going to be a great year for the Mac.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.

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