Do You Want Fries with that OS X?

by Chris Howard Aug 16, 2006

Do you want fries with that OS? Do you want a “Meal Deal” or just a plain burger? It seems we can’t decide, because whenever Apple adds new features to OS X we hear cries of despair for developers who will suffer.

So we’ve just had the “New OS X Features Time!” keynote again. And yet again, Apple has incorporated into OS X some really cool features that they might have been inspired to develop by third party applications. several more well known third party applications could be added to a list that includes Watson, Konfabulator and Liteswitch, by the time Leopard is released.

How to give your developers a backhander - 101
In some parts of the world, a backhander is an insult disguised as a compliment. In the land of Apple, a backhander is a new feature that usurps a third party application.

Apple audaciously and ironically chooses to spring its backhanders upon the world at its developer’s conference, telling us what new features it is including in OS X that will make some third party applications redundant.  What Steve should have said in his keynote is:

“Hi guys. Thanks for all your support of Apple and OS X. You third-party developers are what makes OS X great. We couldn’t do it without you. Oh… except for you, you, you and you” he should have said while pointing at the developers of VirtueDesktops, SuperDuper, Chax and LaunchBar.

We fall over each other in our rush to get to our blogs and cry foul about Apple’s treatment of its developers.

Until the next lead up to announcements of new OS X features when we fill our blogs with OS X speculation and our wish lists. Wish lists that include features that third party developers are already doing: RSS readers; application switching; application launching; virtual desktops; improved searching; super duper backups; enhanced iChat; and so on.

VirtueDesktops exists because people have being calling on Apple for years to provide virtual desktops in OS X. Now when Apple does include virtual desktops, it gets a pasting from the fan base.

What if…
What if Apple didn’t behave like this? Imagine Steve’s keynote then:

“Hi all. We’ve got some great new features to show you in Leopard.
Number one… 64 bit
Number two… Complete package
Number three… Improved Universal Access
Umm… well that’s it actually. Are you excited or what! If you really want to get cool features in OS X, go check out the great range of third party apps.”

Be kinda lame, wouldn’t it?

There was a lot of disquiet about the ho-hum nature of what was shown of Leopard at WWDC06. Imagine if Apple didn’t extend OS X’s functionality at all?

What do you want?
As I asked at the start, do you want fries with that OS or not?

Do you want new features or not?

Or should Apple buy out developers who’ve developed cool features for OS X? Is that the ethical thing to do? (Hello Growl. How long before your number comes up?)

I’m not decided one way or the other, I just wanted to highlight the inconsistency and get some open and frank discussion going.

You may start your keyboards.


  • Actually, ya know what, I don’t want new features, I want refinement of existing features. I want a working office suite. They had one a long time ago called Appleworks, then Clarisworks, then Appleworks. Then they just let it die. Why? Now it’s taking forever to get a productivity suite back. And I want improvements to iCal, Mail, Address Book, and Backup. (OK, Time Machine sounds promising, I hope it lives up to the hype.) And I want interface refinement. When is the new improved Finder coming out? I can see the appeal in Apple’s strategy of trying to do a little of everything (photog, video, music), but at the same time it seems they’re neglecting the basics, consistency in the GUI, for example. The Mac does a lot of things very well, but if they’re not careful it can end up like Windows, a bloat of confusing, inconsistent features.

    daver had this to say on Aug 16, 2006 Posts: 13
  • The right way to do these features is often to hire the guy who wrote the third party extension and acquire his product, roll it into the OS. Apple often does this. For example, Window Shade started out as an extention for System 6(?) and was then rolled into MacOS at a later time - they hired the guy who wrote it.

    If the idea is obvious - like virtual desktops - then there is probably less of a need to do this.

    soft_guy had this to say on Aug 16, 2006 Posts: 21
  • I don’t think Apple would hesitate to hire various developers who show them something very good and, more important, who would like to work for Apple.  A lot of developers probably enjoy working their at their own pace at home or in an office they have set up the way they want.

    I also like the idea of Apple paying for some rights to the code when appropriate.  Saves development time for Apple and rewards the developer - who might then go onto another great OS X app. 

    A lot of times, however, we tend to think that Apple has taken Company X’s idea when there are actually multiple apps out there doing the same thing.

    The app I’m most interested in right now is Parallels.  I would love to see Apple pick up some of their shares in order to prevent MS from buying them out and screwing up the app.

    MacKen had this to say on Aug 16, 2006 Posts: 88
  • The so-called “feature escalations” would only up the ante, so to speak, and get 3rd party devos’ gears churning to come up with more, more, more innovative and inventive ways of doing the same ends as we do now.

    I think Apple’s unethical ways of absorbing ideas from her 3rd party developers is tolerable and should be praised by the faithful. When Apple blesses one idea and plugs that into OSX core, then does the loss of a small developer outweigh the gain of thousands of new Mac customers? I think not. Sacrifice that lamb! M$ does this very tactic with much success. wink

    That very small developer may be very inventive in his/her own right and does not need to stick-it to Steve nor Apple anyway. He or she will come back another day with a better idea and may make it big - by getting hired by Steve? Who knows. That’s my view of this whole Apple Kicking Their Very Own Rear End debate by dubiously duplicating their 3rd party devo’s work.

    Witty and provocative article, Chris.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 16, 2006 Posts: 846
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