MacWorld Expo

Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 23:28 -0800

After thinking that we had seen the last NeXT Expo in any form, I now find myself with rather short notice at another one.

A group of the main ISVs got together after the NeXT-Apple merger announcement and agreed to take a booth. Running the booth are P & L Systems (Mesa), AFS (WriteUp and PasteUp), Blacksmith (Chartsmith and Datasmith), and Caffiene (TIFFany). Also represented are Stone, Sarrus and GS Corp. We are fully stocked on Koolaid, and a Jolly Roger is flying over the stand (obscure historical references).

Let me first summarise the announcements; this means putting them into terms that we share, and avoiding Mac user hysteria. I'll give some feedback from the show floor, as well.

A Mac keynote isn't as technical as a NeXT one; a lot of the details won't be filled in until Ellen Hancock's personal keynote, and possibly not even then.

Apple are doing everything that the NeXT advocates said they would, and almost nothing that Mac oriented reporting has speculated. The replacement for Copland as System 8 is called Rhapsody, and it will be NeXTSTEP, 100%. PPC hardware will run NeXTSTEP as is. The kernel is not yet confirmed, but rumour (from a NeXT kernel engineer) is that Apple first came to NeXT for their kernel technology, and came away with the whole menu.

The first release will be NeXTSTEP as is, around Developer Conference (May), with SMP turned on, and Java. Display Postscript remains, as expected. The kernel isn't confirmed officially, but Mach is in the running, and rumour has it that work is well advanced. Year end will see some Mac style UI revisions, and some compatibility work. Mid '98 will allow running of Sys7 binaries, with the UI slightly modified to allow for proper handling of multitasking. No Sys7 API will be supported, although some technologies will be added to NeXTSTEP.

Apple will continue to develop, support and sell NeXTSTEP on Intel and SPARC, and OpenStep/NT. WebObjects and EOF were not mentioned.

Gil did most of the talking, but called Steve on to demo NeXTSTEP. Steve did two demos: the Interface Builder demo with two sliders and a text field, which he has been doing since '88. The audience goshed and wowed. He then ran six Quicktime movies, all at the same time, while dragging screen captures into a mail message. This was the '93 NeXT Expo demo.

Quite how the Mac audience can be blown away by two very old, and very simple, NeXTSTEP demos really has to be seen to be appreciated. The level of sophistication is very far from what we have become used to.

At the booth we had three machines: PP200, NeXTstation, and a laptop, all running 3.3. As the day wore on, there accumulated a cloud of NeXT people, ISVs, users and NeXT employees. All the NeXT engineers had cheshire cat grins. We probably had more Apple engineers stop by than any other category. The simplest things impressed them: font and colour panels, services, and hot linking. We were giving them configuration advice for Intel systems to buy.

Opaque window dragging really had them running scared. I saw one Mac user literally drop hte mouse when it happened; he was shocked because it moved so easily. If anyone mentioned QuickDraw GX, or Display PostScript, I made them try window dragging on the slab: a 25MHz 040 colour, possibly the slowest machine NeXT ever made. Persistent offenders got Doom :-).

It seems clear that Apple were in at least as much trouble as anyone thought; and that it still hasn't dawned on them what they have bought. The leap they have to make to catch up with the implication of this purchase is bigger then they dream.


After The Show

Date: Fri, 10 Jan 1997 19:46 -0800

It isn't really enough to talk about just the speeches made and keynote addresses. To get the feel of MacWorld this year you have to walk the floor and talk to the atendees and exhibitors. To do that, you have to be there, and it really helps to have a stand. I did...

Given that we were clearly advertising NeXTSTEP applications, and at the far end of the halls from where NeXT had a presence, the visitors we had were interesting. The booth was flying the Jolly Roger, which at least helped me to find it again.

One significant segment of visitors were wearing well-worn old NeXT T-shirts, and some of them were well known and well regarded members of the NeXT community; in fact, all of them living in the Bay Area. Even people who had once used a NeXT were coming to say hello, and stand around the booth talking to old friends. I don't need to say much more about them, and they give the least reliable indication of the mood of the show.

The next group were NeXT employees. Mostly engineers, a very few sales and marketing. The difference between the two was marked. The engineers were on a high, wandering around with cheshire cat grins on their faces, talking happily and freely to anyone who would ask. Apple's new OS team is headed by Avie, has one hundred NeXT employees, and fifty from Apple. The implications are pretty clear.

The NeXT sales people all had a common tale to tell. It's business as usual, Apple aren't interfering with them, it's WebObjects and OpenStep; forget the OS, that comes later. They are staying as an isolated unit working on selling WebObjects to enterprises.

Probably the biggest group of visitors were Apple employees. All were genuinely curious and openminded, looking to see what they had bought. For some, the questions were the ones that Apple had asked NeXT: is it multitasking, multithreaded, does it do protected memory? Basic, but things that System 7 wasn't good at. They wanted to see the user interface, see windows being dragged around, and ask about compatibility with System &, and where's the Unix hidden?

Some were interested in development, and there were also quite a few non-Apple developers with the same view point. We all did slider and text object demos over and over, and showed some a few lines of code. There was no resistance, and only a little puzzlement.

I would say that the mass of users have taken it very well. The emotional buy-in to Be is over; they have concerns, which vanish when they see the "more Mac than the Mac" NeXTSTEP UI. Most, including Apple employees, haven't grasped the scope of what they have bought.

Apple went to NeXT looking for a kernel (true). They came away with $400 million worth of something; Be asked for the same price and were turned down. NeXT had one compelling reason to buy: their OS was done. One amusing story about Be: one person sat through their presentation and at the end asked for a printout of the slides (BeOS doesn't print yet).

Apple haven't absorbed a number of important concepts yet: NeXTSTEP is Unix, and that is good. EOF is a real jewel, and turns database development inside out. Developing for NeXTSTEP is both much easier, and much harder than they think.

One booth member amused himself for the last couple of days by finding stands representing software developers, finding someone senior, and asking "will your product be ready to ship on Rhapsody?". If we had been running in depth developer seminars, we could have cleared the show floor of software exhibitors.

Most NeXT ISVs will be ready to demo at Apple's WWDC in May. Most Apple ISVs will wait for compatability to System 7, but some forward thinking groups will be well ahead by then. Adobe are rumoured to be committed to devlop, although I don't see Photoshop competing with TIFFany. Macromedia have the Virtuoso devlopers, and should be able to find the source code in time.

MacWorld was the first act; act two is set for the Apple WorldWide Developer Conference in May.