October 28, 2006
Why no PowerPC support in Soundbooth?
A few days ago Adobe introduced Soundbooth, a free download (in beta form) from Adobe Labs. Notably, and happily, the app not only supports Mac OS X, but also runs natively on Mactel systems. More controversial, however, has been the news that the app runs only on Mactel systems, not those using a PowerPC.
"The elimination of PowerPC support in Photobooth [sic] raises major issues," writes Macintouch. I’m a little puzzled: how is it that people can refer to the "elimination" of something that never existed–namely, PPC code in Soundbooth?
Here’s the reality: Apple’s migration to Intel chips means that it’s easier to develop for both Mac and Windows, because instead of splitting development resources optimizing for two different chip architectures, you can focus on just one. That’s all good, and it makes Mac development more attractive. Users benefit from having developers’ efforts go elsewhere (features, performance tuning, etc.), rather that into parallel, duplicate work. In the case of Soundbooth, the team could leverage Adobe’s expertise in building great audio tools for Intel chips (namely Audition) to bring the app to market faster and with a richer feature set.
Now, if you were Adobe and had started developing a new application at exactly the time when Apple told you, "This other chip architecture is dead to us," would you rather put your efforts into developing for that platform, or would you focus elsewhere?
This logic seems lost on a lot of online posters, who leap to some fairly outlandish conclusions. "Oh my God, next thing you know, Photoshop and the other apps won’t run on PowerPC, and the next thing you know, they’ll kill Mac versions altogether and just tell us to run Windows using Parallels!" At what point Adobe will burn Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear in some dark pagan ritual isn’t specified, but that must be the natural next step, right??
Come on. As regards Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, etc., these apps have been tuned for PowerPC for many versions, and therefore continuing that support is a very different matter than creating support from scratch. To put the freaking out to rest: the next versions of the CS and Studio apps are being built as Universal apps, and they’ll run great on PPC. Someday Apple, Adobe, and everyone else will stop supporting PPC, as they did with 68k chips, OS 9, etc.–but not anytime soon.
Macintouch writes, "There are 10 or 20 million active PowerPC Macs and no excuse in the world for abandoning them and forcing people to buy new Intel Macs to run applications." Doesn’t it seem like something would have to exist before it could be abandoned? "That’s completely contrary to Apple’s whole approach to the Intel migration," they write. And again, in order to migrate, you have to start somewhere (namely, on the PPC). Soundbooth is a fresh start, not a migration.
If you’re a Mac user, I think it’s important to ask yourself, "Would I rather encourage software developers to bring their titles to the Mac, or would I rather jump down their throats given any opportunity? If Adobe were to bring other Windows-only apps to the Mac, would I be happy about that, or would I rather give them hell for focusing on features & functionality rather than a discontinued chip architecture?"
I have to ask myself, Why on earth am I devoting part of my weekend to writing all this? Why not blow it off and get out of the house? Maybe I should, but as a die-hard Mac user I feel like someone has to speak a little truth to the Mac community–or rather,
to that vocal little group of
zealots and forum trolls. So here’s my message for those folks: You’re hurting the Mac platform. You’re hurting the Mac community. You need to crush a little aluminum foil against those antennae of yours, because you’re hurting everyone concerned. You’re making it harder (and less appealing) for people of goodwill to make the effort to support the Mac.
In economics, Gresham’s law states that when both legitimate money & counterfeit money are in circulation, the bad stuff tends to remain in circulation while the good stuff tends
to be hoarded or exported. This applies to politics and to online conversations: extreme voices drive out (or at least silence) more moderate, level-headed thinking. I’ve bothered to write this, and to risk catching a lot of slings and arrows, because it’s important that someone stand up and say, "Whoa, hey, simmer down. Take another look at the situation, and let’s take a second to accentuate the positive."
At the end of the day, instead of supporting only Windows, Adobe is bringing a new app to the Mac. As a Mac user, I think that’s great news, and I suspect the vast majority of Mac users do, too.
Grabbing the Aerobie and heading out the door,
[Update: Soundbooth PM Hart Schafer shares his perspective on the question of making Soundbooth support PPC. Suffice it to say, it's not a "flip the checkbox in Xcode and you're done" kind of thing.]