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The facts about Macs and developers defy what the press says.

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

This myth cracks me up. I'm a developer and I attend many Mac developer events. Each one is bigger than the last - and Apples attendance figures have shown increases all along. (Sometimes as much as 20-40% in a single year). This is not exactly leaving in droves. Almost as importantly, developer relations between Apple and developers is at an all-time high.

Developers are a bunch of Mamby-Pamby Whiners

Lets face it, developers (like myself) are a bunch of whining geeks that want it all, yesterday, without bugs - that is when we are asking Apple to deliver to us. When we deliver to customers we want to include fewer features, have more time to do so, and a little leeway with "undocumented features". That's just the way developers are. Well the press picks up on our whining and translates it into developers being unhappy with Apple. While I suppose there is an element of truth to that, they fail to point out that by the same scale developers are ready to head up to Redmond with torches and pitchforks and do some serious mayhem.

Developers always want more, for free, and Apple to smile while giving it to us. Anything less and there is going to be developers whining - take it with a large grain of salt. When developers stop whining they are apathetic or have decided that it doesn't do any good - both bad indicators for a platform. So by that measure, the Mac is a raging success. Mac developers are an impassioned bunch, that overall are very happy with Apple of late - but many feel that they would cease to inspire improvements if they stopped whining.

A perfect example of whining developers is Dave Winer who created the frontier scripting language for the Mac. Apple created AppleEvents so that they could create a scripting language to automate Mac behaviors - called AppleScript. Winer beat Apple to the punch with his Frontier by a few month, and then was offended when Apple finished their product and didn't either buy his technology and had the nerve to compete with him. So now he gives his product away, but to this day he has a chip on his shoulder about Apple. Dave Winer is quoted by the press every time they want a negative spin on something Apple has done. Is this guy appropriately named or what?!

Starting up

The Mac is a better platform for software companies to start on for the following reasons -

  • The Mac users are more open to new technology (they are not part of the herd and more willing to take a chance - as proven by their platform choice).
  • The Mac platform requires less support
  • Your Mac application will require less money for you to support
  • It costs less to test (Q.A.) a product on the Mac
  • It is quicker to develop for the Mac (less cost)
  • The Mac has better system documentation
  • Apple charges less for support than MS (and you need it less often)
  • MS just crushes companies that try to compete with them (and they see everyone as competing with them), and they get $.60 of every software dollar made on the PC's - that is a formidable opponent to deal with (on the Mac platform MS has a fraction of that power).
  • In the PC market you have much more expenses with marketing, and often have to buy shelf space.
  • The PC market is more saturated with products, so its harder to get recognized and you have more competition (divide the market among more developers - your slice is smaller)

So because of those reasons (and more), many companies start out on the Mac. Then when they get a product big, and a name made, they port to the PC. The press then can use this to "spin" things - that developers are leaving Macs. Usually they are just adding in PC products. There is no doubt that many other developers will start on the Mac - and after they make a name for themselves and their products, they will develop PC versions as well. The press will continue to spin this as another developer "jumping ship" because they are now making PC variants as well.

Keeping Business Going

Once you develop a Software product it costs a fraction of your initial costs to redevelop for a second platform. (Its all gravy after that). For this reason alone many PC developers will continue to develop for the Mac, and vise versa - it just makes business sense. Big PC companies still need that high-profit second market. Lucas Arts said a year ago "If it wasn't for the Mac market, we would not have turned a profit this year". [Paraphrased] The Mac is a $13 Billion a year industry - developers are not going to snub their noses at that. In fact more and more PC developers are coming over into the Mac market space all the time.

Mac users (and magazines) tend to be a little more finicky about quality products than PC users - so some PC companies products are not up to Mac standards, and get reviewed poorly and don't sell well, and the result is they leave the Mac space. The Press likes to spin this as "leaving Mac in droves" - when the reality is that they only failed to make a compelling product in the Mac market space. That is why many PC companies come over to the Mac side briefly and then give up. Example include Lotus, Autodesk, Novel, or Intuit and others. They ported their shoddy and often buggy products when Macs already had superior products in those market spaces -- and their products pretty much flopped. Now those companies are not going to blame their own incompetence, instead they leave publicly blaming Apple or Mac users or poor sales figures. But some companies learn and stick with it -- WordPerfect is a good example; their first version stank, but they kept at it, and now have a very good products which they are making money at. So when you see PC companies that failed to make a compelling Mac product, and they decide to no longer "support the Mac", see it for what it usually is - their failure, not the Macs.


So companies will continue to come over to the Mac. Startup companies will often be Mac-first, and then move over to PC's as well (later on). Some PC software companies will continue to fail at making compelling Mac products (as will some Mac companies) - and will fall back to their primary platform. Some companies will go out of business (more PC software companies than Mac software companies). Apple will continue to gain more companies than they loose. More and more developers will continue to create good Mac products and attend Mac Developer conferences. Developers will continue to whine. And the press will continue to spin all these things into "Apple is losing developers in droves".

Supporting Facts

  • At Agenda '96, a cross-platform software-industry trade show, 65 percent of developers said they'd be writing Mac programs this year--compared with 57 percent last year.
  • Attendance at the 1995 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference increased 40 percent over the previous one; 34 percent of the programmers were there for the first time.
  • The number of software companies applying to Apple's developer programs tripled in the first quarter of this year (compared with the same quarter last year)--and renewals doubled.
  • Software Publishers Association (SPA), Macintosh users buy twice as much software as Windows users--in 1994, we bought 18 percent of all software. What company would be dumb enough to say, "Hmm, maybe I'll eliminate 18 percent of my sales this year"?
  • the average cost to develop and support Windows programs is 50 percent higher (per dollar of revenue) than for the Mac (says Dataquest).
  • ZDNet Interview - Adobe interview, where Abobe's marketing chief reminds people that they get 60% of their revenues from Mac and that they are firmly comitted to the platform.
  • Washington Post Interview - Small WashingtonDC Developer commenting on the Mac. Interesting article if you take out the anti-Mac spin the author was putting on it.

Created: 02/07/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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