Apple's adoption of Next came out of the blue, say locals

Local Macintosh distributors and developers say they were taken by surprise by Apple's acquisition of Next, which came without the usual internal pre-announcement. Most had been expecting to get the news of Apple's strategy at theMacworld Expo in 10 days' time.

Local Macintosh distributors and developers say they were taken by surprise by Apple's acquisition of Next, which came without the usual internal pre-announcement. Most had been expecting to get the news of Apple's strategy at theMacworld Expo in 10 days' time.

"Obviously, we knew something was up, but I was initially in the same position as anyone else - firing up the Macintouch Home page to see what the news was," says Chris Thompson, marketing manager for New Zealand Apple distributor, CED. "Normally an announcement like this would be preceded by an Apple-only question and answer sheet, but I presume Apple saw the news starting to leak and wanted to make the announcement themselves."

The merged company's declared focus on the enterprise market will mean some new skills and sectors for CED, which has already rung the changes recently with a group restructuring which has seen it come back under the wing of Renaissance.

CED staff won't have to wait long to learn more about plans for what pundits are already calling the "MacStep" OS - a large number are already booked for the January 7 Macworld Expo in San Francisco, when Apple CEO Gil Amelio will present the new OS roadmap.

Local developer Bruce Hoult is philosophical about the major shift for existing Mac developers - the need to use Objective C, rather than the more familiar C++ programming language.

"Objective C is ugly, but does quite a good job of doing user interface code, due to it being loosely bound and more dynamic than C++," says Hoult. "It's not exactly elegant, though. There's nothing to stop you writing the engine of your application using C++ and the user interface stuff in Objective C, and that tends to give you the best of both worlds.

"Or you could use Dylan - a beautiful language, with all the advantages of both Objective C and C++ and Java, while being simpler than C++ - if Apple hadn't dropped the ball there."

Hoult says he had hoped that Apple would adopt the Display Postscript imaging system used the NextStep OS as far back as 1990 "but they didn't, and instead developed QuickDraw GX, which is actually better than Display Postscript for the combined onscreen/printing task, but was many years later. GX has been around since System 7.1 (System 7 Pro), but hasn't gained much momentum, due to Apple pretty much ignoring it."

While both NextStep and the abandoned Copland OS were based around versions of the Unix-like Mach kernel, it it not yet clear exactly which kernel the merged OS will use. Hoult says compatibility is a far trickier issue than the kernel anyway.

"The whole 'Apple needs to buy a preemptive kernel to fit to System 7' thing is rubbish. Apple engineers know perfectly well how to do pre-emptive, protected systems. Look at A/UX, which was a superb melding of Unix and MacOS.

"The kernel part of Copland was done years and years ago. It's modifying the traditional Mac runtime environment to sit happily on top of it - without putting old programs into a 'compatibility box' ghetto - that is the problem. That problem doesn't get any easier with buying Next than it would have with BeOS or AIX or anything else."

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