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

2006
Jan
23

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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