Adobe seems to have baffled the Mac community by announcing that its upcoming audio utility Soundbooth, profiled here earlier this week, would run on Intel Macs but not PowerPC Macs. MacInTouch immediately cried foul, and suddenly the Mac world, having spent the past year yelling at Adobe for not releasing Intel-native code, has begun yelling at Adobe for releasing code only for Intel.
The first response came over the weekend from Adobe’s John Nack on his personal blog, waxing largely philosophical about why it made sense to support the newer Intel Macs instead of the PowerPC platform Apple themselves had abandoned. Now, I’ll be the first to concede Mac users can be hotheaded, but I think the better response would be to cut straight to the technical reasons why Adobe’s developers made this choice. Mac users assume, because they’ve been told so repeatedly by Apple, that creating universal applications is a “checkbox-clicking affair.” You can see a comment to that effect in the extensive discussion Mr. Nack triggered on his site.
Adobe audio product manager Hart Shafer chimes in today with the simpler technical answer:
Soundbooth and PowerPC Chips [Hart's Audition]
Basically, Soundbooth contains lots of Intel-specific code that would be inefficient to port to PowerPC, and the additional QA testing required for an additional CPU architecture was deemed an unworthy investment. (Note that the flipside of this argument would be that, as some Mac users had hoped, Apple’s switch to Intel makes development cheaper for software that’s heavily reliant on the processor, like audio apps.) Now, I’m in no position to evaluate that argument. Since a significant number of our readers are programmers, I’ll let you read his entry and tell us if you think this is a significant issue. What is interesting here is that Shafer never says Adobe’s can’t also port Audition to the Mac. I’m going to keep hoping this is possible; Peak can’t meet everyone’s needs, the excellent Spark is long gone, Apple discontinued their standalone editor product, and I think Mac users would welcome Audition with open arms. In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoy using Audition on my PC.
But, regardless of whether Adobe made the right call here (and it’s their choice to make), there is one conclusion that’s safe to draw here: cross-platform development isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Some newly-coded apps can be easily ported to multiple platforms, although (speaking as someone who routinely runs apps on Mac, Windows, and even Linux side by side) not always with equivalent performance results. Others would be so difficult to port that the time would be wasted. The irony is, the ongoing march of computer technology may mean the easiest way to use software on different platforms is to keep an extra computer handy. (Hint: rescue a computer from someone who’s going to throw it away, repair it, and laugh heartily.)