WWDC: Apple's future rests on cross-platform development

At the recent developer conference in San Jose, CA, Apple talked about its plans for new dev environment and for Java

San Jose, CA (May 13, 1997) -- Top executives of financially-troubled Apple Computer Inc. spelled out the company's strategy for securing the future of the Macintosh systems platform at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) today, using familiar but surprising terms for the Apple community: Windows, Java, and cross-platform development.

A key ingredient of Apple's development strategy is the forthcoming "Yellow Box" object-oriented development environment for its future operating system, code-named Rhapsody. Yellow Box will allow developers to generate and deploy applications supporting not only the Macintosh operating system (Mac OS), but also Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 and Windows NT.

More significantly, Apple executives said in addition to supporting the PowerPC system architecture, the company will make versions of Rhapsody available running on Intel Corp. processors.

In addition Apple promises 100 percent support of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java object-oriented, cross-platform development language.

"Anything in the Yellow Box is accessible to Java," said Avie Tevanian, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, during a keynote speech at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference, which opened here today.

Apple hopes that by making the Yellow Box programming environment cross platform, it can attract more and new software developers to Rhapsody and the Mac OS, and as a result expand the market and business opportunity for developers.

Apple last month posted a US08 million loss for its second fiscal quarter, ended March 28, taking large write-offs for its acquisition of Next Software Inc. and a massive restructuring that slashed 4,000 jobs.

Tevanian said Apple will not collect any licensing fees for Yellow Box, a move that drew cheers and applause from a largely muted audience of roughly 4,000.

Initial reaction to Apple's strategy among attending developers was mixed.

"I am very optimistic about Apple's future," said Bill Schjelderup, a developer with Salt Lake City-based COMPanion Corp. "Yellow Box support for Windows and the Mac OS makes it much easier to justify our investments."

"This was much better than I expected," said Erica Kevian, a product manager with Lotus Development Corp. "Support for Java and integration with Windows is pivotal and I am very happy about the [waiver of] licensing fees for [Yellow Box]. NextStep is very expensive."

"This was mostly fluff," said Ira Rosenblatt, a developer with America Online Inc., adding that he heard nothing new today and is eager to hear more technical details.

Yellow Box, which is due to ship along with Rhapsody in the middle of 1998, melds components of Next Software Inc.'s Openstep operating system independent object-oriented application platform, the Mac OS APIs and Java, executives said. In addition, Yellow Box will eventually incorporate the WebObjects framework, which offers an HTML interface to its objects, enabling developers to create Web-based applications, Tevanian said.

Aside from supporting Java, Yellow Box will also support applications development using C++, C, and Objective C programming languages, Tevanian said.

As for the future of the Mac OS following the release of Rhapsody, Apple will continue a dual operating system strategy.

"We have no plans to replace the Mac OS with Rhapsody," said Tevanian.

Yellow Box will also run on Allegro, the follow-on release to Mac OS 8 scheduled for introduction in July. The Mac OS 8 will offer multithreading capabilities, a PowerPC-native Finder, integrated Internet services and Web browsers, and improved installation features, executives said.

As for Apple's long-term business strategy, company chairman and CEO Gilbert Amelio promised a renewed and continued focus on Apple's strongest markets including publishing and education. In addition, he said, Apple will continue to streamline and simplify its product line, reduce the amount of motherboards and enclosures used, and concentrate on what made the Apple popular among its loyal customer base: ease of use.

"We must archive a higher perceived differentiation and compelling user experience, " Amelio said during his keynote speech. "We must surpass the highest expectation of the people who love and rely on the Macintosh."

Amelio also reiterated his pledge to bring Apple back to sustainable profitability by the fiscal quarter ending in September.

Apple is located in Cupertino, CA. (See Resources for contact information.)

Learn more about this topic


Copyright © 1997 IDG Communications, Inc.