On the heels of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs' prediction that an "avalanche" of third-party Mac OS X software will land by summer, longtime Mac developer Macromedia took the stage at last week's Macworld Expo here to promise new versions of its core multimedia apps for Apple's next-generation OS.
On tap from the San Francisco company: carbonised, or Mac OS X-optimised, versions of FreeHand, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash Player.
After the keynote appearance, Kevin Lynch, president of Macromedia products, talked with ZDNet News about the technical challenges and market prospects Mac OS X presents for his company.
Q: You showed a couple of new applications that should be available this year. What's the rollout schedule?
A: We have not announced exact dates for the rollout. We normally do not do that until we are close to actually releasing the software. But FreeHand [Macromedia's vector-illustration package] will be the first one to come out with native OS X support. Then we will be following with products like Fireworks.
Q: Will FreeHand for Mac OS X basically be a port of the current Mac version, or will it include new features?
A: It is the current version of FreeHand, and it has its current functionality brought on to the OS X platform. So we did not have to start from scratch, since it is the current version adapted to OS X. We are still using applet controls. We did not have throw away all of our work. We were able to use the large majority of the stuff we have done.
Q: You mentioned at the keynote that FreeHand does not use the drawing engine in Quartz, Mac OS X's Portable Document Format-based imaging technology. Why not?
A: It's just a matter of time and stability. As these things get stable and solid on the platform, then we can build on top of it. But we are really looking forward to using more of the Quartz functionality. We have built so much into FreehHand already for imaging that we can build up on our own.
If you would start from scratch you might use the stuff, but we were in a different position. Again, there are a lot of things in Quartz we want to take advantage of, like alpha-channel support.
Q: You've had no problems developing for Mac OS X?
A: It takes re-engineering. We've been working with OS X for two years now. It's not a minor job. But it is something we can do, and Apple has done a great job helping developers getting their applications on OS X. But it's certainly not a no-work situation. You have to invest effort to make it work well, and we are doing that because we care about the quality of our applications running on the platform.
Q: Is FreeHand the most difficult Macromedia application to bring over to OS X?
A: Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash are newer than FreeHand. It's true, FreeHand is one of the older products we have. But it is one of our most popular applications, too. This is why we started with FreeHand.
Q: Do you have any plans to port Director and Authorware to Mac OS X?
A: We are looking at all of our software. We're driven by customer demand. So if the demand is huge enough, we will definitely put more effort into this work.
Q: What percentage of Macromedia's current customers are Mac-based?
A: It's different with each product.In FreeHand's case most of the users are Macintosh users. In Dreamweaver's case, most people are Windows users. I estimate maybe 30 percent are coming from the Mac platform.
Q: Do you expect the Mac percentages to rise once Mac OS X becomes available?
A: It's a good question, and I think nobody can predict this. I personally hope that OS X will bring more users and developers back to the Macintosh.
I'm very optimistic. I've use a Mac myself since 1984, and I really hope that OS X is changing the current situation.
Q: What are the key issues developers and users request?
A: One of the most requested features is a means of collaborating with co-workers on a project. A lot of people are working together in groups on Web sites or other projects, and they all have to make sure that everybody knows what is going on.
A lot of developers and users ask for more features in the area of server-side techology. It is a big area, and we created products like UltraDev to help people to be more successful using server-side technologies.
Q: In UltraDev, you support JSP, ASP and ColdFusion. Will there be more pre-installed solutions for application servers?
A: The way we created this software is that we enable people to build on the top of UltraDev and extend the software the way they want it. But there are also extensions for Dreamweaver people have [posted] in the exchange section of our Web site. We've had over 2 million downloads of those extensions.
If you want to do PHP within UltraDev, you can; some people have actually introduced PHP solutions already. PHP is the most requested language.
Q: What about the Andromedia solutions you acquired with the company in 2000? These are server-side technologies, too. Will you bring them over to Mac OS X?
A: First, we have been working to make these technologies more accessible to people. We are still learning a ton there, and right now it is very much the beginning of the server-side products. If you are looking at the overall market they haven't been rapidly adopted, but that is something that is going to happen in the next few years.
Right now is still a period of experimentation for a lot of companies. It is not yet a fundamental element. We are trying to make this easier. We are thinking about OS X, too. But it depends on the adoption of OS X as a server platform. If that takes off, then we will bring our stuff out on OS X.
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