Mac developers betting hard on Leopard

One of the nascent trends at the recent Macworld Expo was the arrival of Leopard-only applications. Despite the ballyhooed success of the Leopard rollout, selling your software to a subset of the market is an unusual move, especially so for small developers.

Mac developers betting hard on Leopard
One of the nascent trends at the recent Macworld Expo was the arrival of Leopard-only applications. Despite the ballyhooed success of the Leopard rollout, selling your software to a subset of the market is an unusual move, especially so for small developers.

Like a Hollywood studio, Apple in October waved the flag over the first weekend results of its release of Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard. In a release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that "Leopard’s innovative features are getting great reviews and making more people than ever think about switching to the Mac.”

During his Expo keynote, Jobs said the rapid move towards Leopard by the installed base was continuing. He said the update was both a critical success as well as a business one.

"We have delivered over 5 million copies. It is the most successful release of Mac OS X ever. And what this has resulted in is almost 20 percent of the Mac installed base has now upgraded to Leopard. This is unprecedented in the first 90 days for us and of course, the industry."

What is just as remarkable was the rollout of a number of "designed exclusively for Mac OS X Leopard" apps.

The most important Leopard-only app at the Expo was Filemaker's $49 Bento personal database product. The demo theater in the booth was packed.

The Bento reviewer's guide gives a run-down of the integration:

Bento is designed to take advantage of a number of new features found in Leopard, the new Mac OS from Apple Inc. For example, Bento connects directly to Address Book and iCal. It has a fresh look and feel, courtesy of Leopard’s advanced drawing and Core Animation systems. It borrows Leopard’s Advanced Find feature. And it lets you add special effects to your pictures directly from within the Media field via Image Kit. In addition, Bento also leverages such cool Leopard technology as Time Machine and Quick Look.

Why is this such a bold move? For the most part, it limits the potential audience for a program until the majority of the installed base migrates to Leopard. While 20 percent is now running Leopard, 80 percent isn't. That's a lot of people.

In addition, developers can't be sure of when the base will flip. There's no reason to believe that the quick rate of change will continue. It may. No doubt, many users, especially those in professional workflows, will stick with Tiger for while.

Yet it's one thing for a big vendor such as Filemaker to slowly build a base for its product and another for a small developer.

At the show, one small company said Leopard's improved support and time-to-market considerations drove the Leopard-only development.

I spoke with Raphael Sebbe, the CEO of Creaceed, a Belgium-based software vendor. The company released Hydra 1.0, an editor to build high dynamic range digital photographs, and Morph Age Pro 4.0, an update to its morphing and warping effects software.

He said the new version of Morph Age could have been done for Tiger but then the update wouldn't have made it to Expo. In addition, Leopard's advanced Core Image routines made for a more robust and better product.

"Supporting older platforms takes time. We could could have [supported Tiger] but we would have sacrificed the [user] experience," Sebbe said.

I was impressed after seeing both products in action. And I was just as impressed with the optimism over the market's transition to Leopard shown by some Mac vendors.

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