Adobe Dragging Its Feet with Intel-Macs? Not Quite.


Popping up on blogs and message boards is the postulation of the theory that Adobe and other software vendors have already had plenty of time to recompile their applications to Intel-Macs and are choosing to drag their feet. Large companies in the computer business (both software and hardwire sides) do not exist in a vacuum; [...]

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Popping up on blogs and message boards is the postulation of the theory that Adobe and other software vendors have already had plenty of time to recompile their applications to Intel-Macs and are choosing to drag their feet. Large companies in the computer business (both software and hardwire sides) do not exist in a vacuum; by the time the public hears about new computer hardware or operating systems that affect products by other large developers, those developers have already known about, and been working with, the new technology for some time. The argument therefore goes that Adobe should have been ready to release Intel-Mac-compatible applications simultaneous to Apple shipping the first such systems in January 2006.

While logical on the surface, this argument simply doesn’t hold water.

First and foremost, the only Intel-based Macs currently available are iMacs–student and home user models–and MacBook Pro laptops. Creative production-grade desktop systems are not yet available, nor have they even been announced. (I predict Apple, having learned from its timing mistakes with the first OS X-based machines, will release such systems before the end of 2Q2006, closer to the expected release date of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3, Microsoft’s Office:mac 2006, and other major applications.) Presently, though, there are no Intel-Macs on the market to address the high demands of creative professionals. Therefore, whether creative professional software is available for Intel-Macs is a moot question.

Timing is also the second reason why the accusation that Adobe is dragging its feet is unfounded. Intel and Apple did not produce final, production-ready machines until a few months before Macworld and the subsequent shipping of Intel-based Macs. Developers of smaller applications with less intricate codebases could adapt quickly, as could those who had direct developmental assistance from Apple’s own engineers. Migrating robust and workflow-critical software like the typical Adobe creative pro application requires not only longer recompiling, but also significant testing time. If Adobe released Intel-Mac-compatible versions of its software now, the probability of bugs or performance issues would be high–effectively, users would be turned into unwitting beta testers. Adobe cares about its products and customers, and, although there have been times when users of released Adobe products have felt like beta testers, Adobe has never intentionally shipped products that the company did not feel were ready for release.

Software development cycles are complicated. Adobe’s is one of the most complicated because all of the market-leading and workflow-critical applications in its Creative Pro Business Unit are part of the Creative Suite, which necessitates a unified development and release cycle. Thus, all core application development would have to be ported to Intel-Mac-compatibles before any could be released. Some apps–InDesign and InCopy specifically–could be ported over today by virtue of the fact that their code bases are entirely platform-homogenous plug-in architectures (in English: InDesign and InCopy are not single executable applications like Photoshop or Illustrator; they are built entirely out of plug-ins, with a simple and tiny plug-in wrapper gluing together all their functions). Other applications, like Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, GoLive, Bridge, Version Cue, Flash, Dreamweaver, and so on, however, would take longer to recompile to, and be tested on, Intel-Macs. Although Adobe could hand out Intel-Mac-compatible applications like InDesign and InCopy piecemeal, it makes no sense, and benefits no one, to do so. The vast majority of creative pros use two or more Adobe applications; thus, an Intel-Mac-ready version of InDesign is all but useless to someone who needs to touch up photos, create vector drawings, or preflight PDFs in addition to page layout work.

One could use InDesign and/or InCopy on a new Intel-Mac, but would have to go back and forth between it and the IBM chip-based Power Mac for any other creative task. Files would then also have to be ferried back and forth via the network, direct cable connection, or removable media. Bragging rights aside, being among the first to own and use an Intel-Mac in actual production would be more hassle than benefit.

But, QuarkXPress 7 already runs on Intel-Macs, say some. That is not entirely true…

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14 Responses Discussing “Adobe Dragging Its Feet with Intel-Macs? Not Quite.”
  1. Many of these arguments are valid, but miss the broader point. Apple and Adobe have done a poor job of allowing professional users to anticipate a roadmap for the future. If I’m forced to purchase a new Mac based system today, what do I buy? A PPC based G5 that will be obselete in the near future and offer sub par performance once the universal apps hit the shelves. An Intel based Mac and live with Rosetta enulation slowing everything down, then face a unclear upgrade future that probably involves purchasing software a second time? Or do I just dump Apple and go to Windows where the roadmap is clear and application performance is better? I find it funny that Apple named their emulation layer for a artifact that finally gave us insight to the past, while their approach to professional users continues to show thay have learned nothing from their history.

    25 Jan 2006
    08:08 PT
  2. Windows has a clear roadmap??!!!!

    Shirley, you jest.

    The past has shown us that there is no way to predict a clear roadmap for the future.

    25 Jan 2006
    11:18 PT
  3. All sorts of puns about roads come to mind, but I will (with diffuculty) restrain myself.

    Brian, Jim gets straight to the point: There are no roadmaps to be had. Apple and especially Adobe are responsible for most of the little predictability we have in professional creative and production technologies. Apple brought the graphical user interface to market, priced laser printers within reach of individuals, and created the concept of Plug N’ Play, among many other innovations. Adobe created the printer language on which Apple’s laser printer ran, pioneered non-device resident soft fonts, developed PDF, and is the innovator behind an overwhelming majority of the applications, systems, and methodologies we use to do our jobs. Because of them we know today’s PDFs will work in tomorrow’s workflows, our fonts will serve us for many years to come, and that today’s Macs can exchange files with tomorrow’s PCs (and vice versa).

    With the breakneck pace of technology development, there isn’t very much more one can plan on. I think both companies–as well as their contemporaries–are doing the best they can to keep up with, and maintain a slight lead on, the changes introduced by everyone else.

    25 Jan 2006
    15:11 PT
  4. All of the admittedly revolutionary developemnts happened over a decade ago. Since that time Apple has increasingly turned to secrecy as a marketing tool. Microsoft however relies on a much more open hardware & software development & supply chain. There are public beta versions of all their upcoming versions of software so businesses can test functionality with their existing processes and test upcoming technologies. Instead Apple releases new hardware, says the software is on the way, and announces that the hardware will be discontinued in a year. Very different from a forecasting and system planning standpoint.

    26 Jan 2006
    17:46 PT
  5. I smell bias.

    Public betas are not definitive signs that a company is open with development. Public betas simply show that a company has a massive market for a product and they want to ensure that their product works well. It is also a spectacular marketing tool and a way to get early adopters. Quark, Adobe and Apple also offer beta programs.

    It was only under EU rulings that Microsoft is opening more code.

    Time always marches on. How can I get support for Windows 98? The only reason why Microsoft seems to be moving at a better (slower) upgrade pace is because it is a lumbering giant. That is both its asset and its weakness. No one is happy about whiplash development but we would be equally unhappy if we were still using Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 6.

    27 Jan 2006
    06:52 PT
  6. Not bias, just frustration. I’m not looking for support of a legacy system. Just answers about how applications will run and perform on their current hardware and OS so I can make strategic decisions regarding IT investments. I’d like to go with the Intel Macs, espically after seeing some of the revised benchmarks that indicate the performance claims Apple made for universal applications seem to be accurate. But I have no way to know when that will be something I can buy. I’m frustrated that Apple has announced a fairly agressive (timewise) phase out of a platform before the software many users of that platform rely on has even been announced, released, or tested. I blame Adobe on this issue just as much if not more than Apple, it certainly appears that Apple made the developemnt tools available. But there really is not good alternative to running the CS regardless of platform.

    27 Jan 2006
    13:17 PT
  7. Why does it surprise you that Apple is phasing out old machines before new software is ready? This is the 4th time they’ve done it, we should be used to it by now.

    (6502 to 68000, 68000 to PPC, OS 9 to OS 10, and now PPC to Intel)

    I agree that it is annoying, but it will always happen (and happens in the Windows world too. Try buying a new program for Windows 95 or even 98).

    The big irony is that Intel is very forthcoming on their roadmap, and have outlined their plans for for the next 10 years. Apple won’t tell you what they’re doing tomorrow.

    30 Jan 2006
    09:52 PT
  8. True enough, Steve, although Intel’s products and Apple’s are as different as…er…apples and oranges. Or at least apples and computer chips.
    Intel can draw a roadmap of the United States without harm to its marketplace position, while Apple’s got a pack of me-too’s from Microsoft to Malaysia waiting to iCopy, iInfringe, and iReverse-engineer its eyeCatching iGadgets and gizmos. (And iApologize InAdvance for the iNsufferable i’s…)

    31 Jan 2006
    23:09 PT
  9. First of all I would like to say, great article. Though there is one point that sticks out in my mind that was not covered. When i think about Quark Xpress, Microsoft Office, and the Adobe Creative Suite, I remember that these products were almost all built pre OSX. Most, if not all of them contain legacy carbon code that does not work properly within rosetta. Not only that, but if memory serves me correctly, they were all built with code warrior, not Apple’s Xcode. Thus another roadblock in getting these apps out. I suspect that there is a great deal of code that is having to be redone in there products, and thus the long wait for an firm announcement.

    Just my $0.02, take it for what you will.

    01 Feb 2006
    10:03 PT
  10. Thanks, Paul.

    I’m not sure about which of those apps were developed with code warrior or Xcode, so I don’t know whether to agree or disagree with you. I do believe that QuarkXPress 7 was rewritten and compiled to be a universal app, giving it native functionality on Intel-Macs.

    01 Feb 2006
    11:06 PT
  11. Just read (warning: pdf link) from Adobe’s website. they do mention switching the entire codebase over to Xcode. I think that you are correct with QXP 7. From what I have read it looks as though they have been using Xcode and do have a fat binary of it.

    02 Feb 2006
    08:59 PT
  12. Well that didn’t quite work… Anyways, here is the link:

    02 Feb 2006
    09:01 PT
  13. [...] According to Terri Stone, editor-in-chief (reported here, including a link to Seeking Alpha’s transcript of the call), during the conference call of 22 March discussing 2006 1st Quarter Adobe earnings, Adobe executives verified that Macintosh users won’t be seeing MacTel-native Creative Suite apps until the CS3 release, mooted for Spring 2007. This confirms the predictions of Quark VS in this January 2006 editorial by Pariah S. Burke. [...]

    29 Mar 2006
    18:56 PT
  14. [...] As you can plainly see in the discussion here and here, as well as a hundred other blogs, forums, and bulletin boards around the Web, the zealous Macintosh fan base is quick to accuse Adobe, Microsoft, and other Mac software makers of intentionally dragging their feet in porting applications to the new Intel-based Mac Universal Binary code. In other words: the market is once again jumping at Apple’s command. [...]

    20 Apr 2006
    14:00 PT

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