Soundbooth and PowerPC Chips

John Nack has commented as a long-time Mac user in the Soundbooth forums as well as on his blog on the subject of Soundbooth’s support of only Intel-based Macs. His post is worth a read, but one of the comments on his blog sums up a lot of frustration people are expressing:

The use of Xcode means that, afaik, the creation of a universal binary would’ve required Adobe to click a check box before compiling. They chose not to, and that is what upsets people, I believe.

Oh how I wish this were true. As I said originally, we really wanted to make a PPC version but the “make universal” checkbox simply wouldn’t work for us. If it would I’d be in there yelling for our engineers to check it and get me a PPC version–I’m not in the habit of passing up potential customers! However, as has been pointed out elsewhere we have buckets of Intel-specific code for modules in Soundbooth that would all have to be re-written to work on PPC chips. The spectral view and the edits you can do there are a good example of something that could work on the PPC but would be so dog slow as to be worthless without this kind of work. We leverage this sort of Intel expertise all over the application.

Even if we could check the box to produce a PPC version, and dedicate engineers to re-write all that Intel-specifc code, most people don’t consider the impact that has on testing and quality assurance–which is a non-trivial part of getting a release out. (Just ask our QA team who worked through the weekend tracking down issues to get the public beta out last week). A different chip architecture means a different test bed, which in turn means a lot of additional testing time. Every aspect of the application has to be re-verified–all that Intel-specific code we would have re-written for PPC would have inevitably introduced new bugs and testers are rightfully distrustful of the idea of “oh, don’t worry, the software will work the same on both chips.” Engineers can write all the code in the world, but without a good QA team running through all of it you probably wouldn’t want to buy what they produce…

All of that is to say that creating a PPC version would have been possible, but it would have taken considerable resources for our team. We used our PPC/Intel analysis as part of our platform decisions and balanced that with all the other things that go into a software release: our desired feature set, how much time we’d take to stamp out bugs to reach our high quality standards, how many people we have on the team to work on it, and when did we need to ship it in order to capitalize on the opportunity.

People talk of a monolithic Adobe but we’re made up of dozens of product teams, some smaller than others. As a team we looked at all the factors and concluded that we could make this app but we’d have to give up some significant things. The two huge things that hit the cutting room floor were PPC support and several dozen features we all desperately wanted but simply couldn’t get done. They were excruciating choices, and people will argue we should have made different decisions instead. That’s what making software is like.

15 Responses to Soundbooth and PowerPC Chips

  1. Rosyna says:

    Also remember, that Apple’s official stance is that they will not promote in any way, add an application to their Mac product guides, or sell a product if the Apple retail stores if it is not fat.I wonder if Adobe has considered this. The lost revenue from not Soundbooth not being acknowledged by Apple versus the amount of cost associated with making Soundbooth properly fat.

  2. It’s worth noting that Apple’s “official stance” means little or nothing, at least as far as Adobe is concerned, since Adobe makes several of the marquee products for the OSX platform. But that said, speaking as a developer, Mr. Shafer is absolutely correct (not that he needs me to tell him that.) Even for simple cross-platform apps, it’s a lot more complicated than just “checking a box,” even without any CPU-specific code. For our products, in order to release UBs, we had to discontinue support of any flavor of OSX prior to 10.3.9. Sometimes you have to look at the cost:benefit ratio, and make a decision. Ultimately, there will be as many PPC users in 2 years as there are OS 9 users now, and it’s kind of dumb to devote a lot of resources to supporting that community.

  3. Peter Kirn says:

    Thanks, Hart, for being candid on this. You’ll notice that opinion has already shifted (some loud, hotheaded voices) now that this has been explained. Remember that the “just click a checkbox” idea about Xcode initially came from Apple (I believe Jobs said something to that effect himself in the original WWDC keynote). Unfortunately, the lay person often gets a very distorted perspective of what development is about. The Mac hasn’t had the range of choices that Windows users have in the audio editor market as with some other audio apps, so I think the bottom line is, people are glad to see some a new app.

  4. JeffT says:

    I don’t know about Apple’s fat application policy but they seem to strongly promote Parallel’s desktop and sell it at the Apple store. I am fairly certain that this only runs on Mactel systems.Would I have prefered for Adobe to produce a “so dog slow as to be worthless” PPC version, actually yes. I think that they should have but I don’t think Soundbooth will be ostracized by Apple because it is lacking.

  5. Stephane says:

    Requiring 10.3.9 or later to release a UB version supposes poor Xcode knowledge.Building applications that run from 10.2 to 10.4 on PPC and Intel is not more difficult than just supporting 10.3.9 because you don’t know how to handle the _ppc options in Xcode.Supporting 10.3.9 and later is useless. If you need to cut support, start at 10.4.

  6. Raman Pfaff says:

    I personally don’t mind Adobe taking this stance. Thinking towards the future is always a good thing, and since Intel-based Mac sales are continuing to climb (and no PPC machines are even made), there is really no need to spend resources just to create a PPC version.So long as the output from an authoring app (sound in this case) can be experienced (hear, view, etc.) on a PPC I’m happy.

  7. Ed Woo says:

    Thanks for your sober update. The fact that it sounds like you’re not using Xcode worries me a little. Isn’t the reason CS3 is delayed because it was a mixture of proprietary and hand coded stuff in previous versions. Will using your own Xplatform development tool mean you’ll always lag any Apple ‘innovations’. For example Core Image, why not just use it and reduce your code base size?

  8. exprov says:

    I’d rather have good code than something something that’s universal.Remember just a few years back when Microsoft used to support all their legacy platforms; the threw hundreds of programmers at projects to ensure that stuff would run in both 16-bit and 32-bit Windows. And it did. Badly.Now that they concentrate on Win32, MS stuff actually works fairly reliably.I sense an emerging cohort of PPC Mac loyalists who look down on the new Intel Macs and want to to stay on the “real” Mac platform forever. Well, they can; they just shouldn’t expect much new software from here on. It was barely economical to produce software for PPC’s when they were current. Every month, there will be fewer and fewer of them left in service. The PPC macs are a dead parrot.

  9. Noses says:

    Also remember, that Apple’s official stance is that they will not promote in any way, add an application to their Mac product guides, or sell a product if the Apple retail stores if it is not fat.Ah – Parallels Desktop is a fat binary, running on PPC? Did I miss something?Why did I buy VirtualPC for?

  10. woof says:

    The real question is, why is SoundBooth such a terrible application? It is neither easy to use, nor powerful. It straddles mediocrity in all regards.

  11. Tom Dibble says:

    Regarding the 10.3.9 support:One thing users tend not to understand about OS X is that each version of the gcc compiler is supported on a range of OS versions. By which I mean, if you want to use the latest version of gcc, then you can NOT support 10.3.x, because the libraries which are compatible with 10.3 re not compatible with the latest version of gcc. Supporting 10.1 means going all the way back to gcc 2.95 (meaning bare-bones C++ STL support, for instance); supporting 10.2 means going back to gcc 3.1 (I believe) and 10.3 means going back to gcc 3.3 or 3.5 (forget which).Why would you want a more recent version of the compiler? Because it is faster, more reliable, and allows for better debugging.It is NOT just as easy to support 10.2.x as to support 10.3.9. Supporting 10.3.9 allows one to use a much more recent version of the compiler and system libraries than supporting 10.2.x or even 10.3.0. There are a whole host of vital compiler fixes between 3.0 and 3.1, not to mention 3.3 and the current.All that having been said, I think that Adobe is still in the business of selling software, not screwing over PPC owners. If they aren’t supporting PPC here it’s not likely because they decided they wanted to cut out that portion of the marketplace, but instead because they wanted to *sell to* the Mac/Intel portion of the market. Same argument applies to support for older OS versions.IMHO, I would much rather see a software company support only the latest OS and hardware well, than cost me time and money by putting out a buggy collection of hacks designed to work equally poorly on all hardware. When you *MAKE MONEY* off your hardware and software, you realize that the compromises software houses have to make in hopes of pushing down minimum requirements specs on the box are often not worth it. Given the choice between a buggy piece of software that can run on the machine I have in my back closet, and a solid piece of software that requires me to sell my old hardware (at about 75% the original cost, not bad for having it a few years) and buy new hardware … I’d rather have solid software on new hardware.Now, if I’m not making money off that piece of software, I’m not likely to want to upgrade my hardware to run it. Thats the difference between the “Pro”/”Prosumer” market and the “Consumer”/”Bulk Warehouse Sales” markets; the former can require hardware upgrades, while the latter loses sales if they don’t run on every POC gellapi sold in the past decade.

  12. puh leeze says:

    i was thrilled when i first heard about this program, i loved sound edit 16. my initial thought was ii could be byuing this immediately.but this sounds to me like short sighted greedy marketing, a bunch of lazy profit driven spin.i have a sneaking suspicion that mac owners have been pretty good for adobe over the years.what you’ll get out of this transparent approach is a bunch of disgruntled mac owners who are going to lose a lot of faith in your company. is the next version of photoshop only going to work on intel macs too?i was praising your company’s products last weekend. i’ll be a whole lot more reluctant to do that anymore.

  13. Mark Fischer says:

    As an educator, I help to run a lot of computer labs on campus. When we look for apps to install on our computers, lots of macs and lots of windows PCs, we don’t really care if a software title is on Apple’s “approved product guide” or not. If its a good program and our customers want it, we’ll buy some licenses and install it.I’d like to re-iterate the stance that we (mac users) should all be happy that Adobe is making a brand new application available that works on all currently shipping and future machines. Backwards compatibility is great if its easy, but I’d much rather a company like Adobe be looking forward than back.

  14. Chad says:

    Thanks for clearing things up. This explanation reveals more on the decision to support the Intel-based Macs, but not support the PPC Macs. I knew that this day would come, I just didn’t expect it so soon.But it definitely makes sense why things were done like they were. If your teams were able to get up to speed very quickly by using some code already written and tested for Audition, that has very likely helped bring Soundbooth to the market, much, much sooner. I have two related applications I’ve written (Untar and GUI Tar), and since they share a lot of code, I was able to get a very quick jump on developing the initial build of GUI Tar.Even though there is not a PPC version of Soundbooth, there might have never been a Mac-version of it had the Macs not switched over to Intel chips.

  15. Jonathan Neil says:

    I was a huge fan of Cooledit Pro back in the day, and have since switched to OS X. I’ve missed using Cooledit (and audition, since they were essentially identical), and have hoped that someday I would be able to use my favorite editing program on my iMac G5. Now I find out that I will have to upgrade to a Mactel if I want to use Soundbooth. This is extremely disappointing, I must say. I would like to know, though, how similar in operation this new product will be to the classic Cooledit Pro. Can you answer that for me, since I can’t run the beta on my G5? This is the kind of thing that may encourage me to upgrade to a CoreDuo unit at some point. Thanks.