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Why Apple Bounced Back: Software


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Why Apple Failed promised to reveal an accidental discovery that was key to Apple's recovery. The great minds of Slashdot took various guesses over the weekend, but here's the real reason Apple was able to create new growth in the Mac platform.

 

Why Apple Bounced Back: Software

As noted in The Rise and Fall of Platforms: Planting Software Seeds, Apple had observed how Adobe's PostScript technology had driven the development of desktop publishing as a killer application for the Mac, and hoped to similarly deliver the basis of a new wave of multimedia applications using its own QuickTime software.

 

 

 

QuickTime not only drove adoption of Macs, but it preserved the Mac platform through the 90s by helping to establish it in the field of content creation.

 

Why Apple Failed described how Apple was at the mercy of its developers, and particularly the four majors: Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia, and Quark. All four had originally established their graphic applications on the Mac, but were moving toward Windows.

 

Windows itself was the result of Microsoft seeking to broaden its sales of Word and Excel from the Mac onto DOS PCs. As Windows gained adoption, it created a huge potential market for graphic applications that had only ever been available on the Mac. Developers naturally followed Microsoft to reach that huge new market.

 

The Cross Platform Threat

Adobe, Quark, Macromedia and other Mac developers built their own in-house cross-platform development systems to allow them to deploy versions of their software on both Windows and the Mac.

 

This new style of "lowest common denominator" cross platform development resulted in Apple's customers having fewer reasons to stick with the Mac platform. Apple could invent all sorts of new software technologies, but if these features complicated developer's cross-platform efforts, they simply wouldn't ever get adopted.

 

This helped to kill any value remaining in developments like PowerTalk and QuickDraw GX. Adoption of new Apple features would add value to Macs, but didn't do anything for developers apart from making their work harder.

 

Third party developers weren't anti-Mac; they were simply acting in their own best interests.

 

The same situation has also threatened Microsoft and other platform vendors; both Sun's Java and Netscape's web platform threatened to create software that worked anywhere, which would erase any differentiation or value from Windows as a platform. Microsoft worked hard to stop them.

 

DIY Software

Apple needed to differentiate the Mac platform with innovative software applications, but it increasingly had less and less power to do so, as big developers ignored its unique features and toolkits.

 

If Apple wanted unique applications for its Mac platform, it would have learn how to deliver them itself. There was a huge risk involved: it seemed impossibly difficult to create software without angering third party developers.

 

Prior to the Mac, Apple had shipped its 1983 Lisa computer with a full suite of Apple designed office software. The Lisa's commercial failure was partly attributed to the perceived lack of opportunity for third party developers.

 

Realizing the importance of a healthy third party development ecosystem, Apple determined not to repeat the same mistake with the Macintosh.

 

When Apple released the Mac, it only shipped it with the simple MacWrite and MacPaint applications, which were supposed to serve as placeholder demonstrations.

 

However, third party developers were still annoyed that these Apple titles limited the potential market for retail software. To placate these developers, Apple spun off its internally developed Mac software into a new Claris subsidiary in 1987.

 

 

Claris later acquired the developer of the FileMaker and rebranded its various software titles with a common Claris look. It eventually became Apple policy that all application software would be handled by Claris.

 

By the time NeXT arrived to reinvent Apple a decade later, the once innovative Claris software portfolio was largely dead, apart from its basic ClarisWorks suite and the popular FileMaker Pro.

 

The new Apple renamed Claris to FileMaker, Inc. and scraped the remains, apart from ClarisWorks, which Apple itself began to sell under the name AppleWorks.

 

After a decade of pointedly avoiding application software, Apple was now back in the development business, even if it didn't yet realize how important that would be to the Mac’s recovery.

 

Apple Strikes Gold with KeyGrip

In the same late 90s timeframe, Macromedia hired the development team of Adobe's Premier, lead by Randy Ubillos, in order to develop a rival new professional level video editing application based on QuickTime. The product was tentatively called KeyGrip and then Final Cut.

 

Shortly after starting work on its "Premier killer," Macromedia decided to stop competing directly with Adobe. Instead, it would target the market for web development tools, and leave the video and print markets to Adobe. Macromedia put the unfinished project up for sale, but couldn't find a buyer.

 

Apple bought the product from Macromedia in 1998 to prevent it from simply being abandoned. After being unable to find a developer interested in continuing work on it, Apple completed the project itself, releasing it the next year as Final Cut Pro.

 

What began as a fortunate accident would become Apple's new killer app for the Mac.

 

Final Cut Pro Cleans Up

Final Cut Pro quickly destroyed Adobe's Premier. Apple's new product was essentially an entirely reworked new version of Premier, while Adobe had let its Premier languish as it focused on graphic design and print production.

 

The desktop market for video editing was still small, so the challenge hardly mattered. It was an easy victory. Apple really broke ground with Final Cut Pro when it took on industry leader Avid.

 

Avid started out on the original Macintosh II in the late 80s, and had since become the leading vendor in delivering video editing workstations. Initially, Final Cut Pro wasn't seen as much of a threat. The film industry was strongly entrenched behind Avid solutions, and Final Cut Pro only offered a limited subset of its features.

 

 

What Final Cut Pro did offer was easy access to the power of QuickTime. It allowed both large and small studios to set up a relatively inexpensive Mac to do their simple post production tasks at much lower cost than if they were to tie up their own Avid, or have to rent access to an expensive Avid studio.

 

After allowing Apple an entry into professional post production and broadcast graphics, Final Cut Pro has been able to grow into a serious competitor.

 

The Turnaround Discovery

Final Cut Pro was a great demonstration of the flexibility of Quicktime, and importantly for Apple, distinguished the Mac platform. Apple had canned the development of Final Cut for Windows, making Mac hardware the only way to run Final Cut Pro.

 

The new Apple suddenly discovered that the way to sell more Macs was to offer compelling new software that was only available on the Mac. This might seem obvious in retrospect, but the company had been cautiously avoiding the application software market for over a decade. Claris had even ported FileMaker to Windows.

 

The initial worry that bundled software would chill third party development had been overwhelmed by the much greater fear that the Mac would cease to matter unless Apple differentiated its platform with unique software, something that the big third party software developers saw no need to do.

 

Apple's Software Explosion..... continue reading in the proper site after the link its very good and dereves being read and accounted for it

 

 

This is the actual link

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/8F4...1EAE9C1BA6.html

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Ive been following these articles as well. They are very well written and very informative. I cant wait for the next installment. For anyone who wants to read from the begining, these are the links, in order:

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/9FD...21BEDE6D96.html

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/469...75871A028B.html

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/8F4...1EAE9C1BA6.html

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Thank you for these links, these were worth reading.

 

They have a widget to track the latest articles and I think I'm going to follow the upcoming ones. (I won't give the direct download link to the widget since I'm not sure about its copyright. But it is quite visible on their main page.)

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