The WWDC '97 Keynote:
A Personal Account
by Gregg Williams
Apple Developer Relations
Tuesday, May 13, 1997
If there was anything different about the 1997 Apple Worldwide Developers
Conference, I couldn't tell it. The usual assortment of developers were
milling about before the Opening Keynote session, the presentation stage
was, if anything, even more opulent than usual, and Hall 1 of the San Jose
Convention Center was almost filled to capacity. It was an excellent turnout
that countered the dire predictions of a troubled and under-attended WWDC.
I think I will remember it as the day that I realized that Apple was back
on its way to greatness, once again.
I sat through the Opening Keynote with some knowledge of what was going
to be said. But seeing it said in one place, with demos of upcoming operating
systems running flawlessly, I began to see things as they must have appeared
to the rest of the audience: a strategy that was coherent, sensible, and
deliverable. As Apple Chairman and CEO Dr. Gilbert Amelio said during his
part of the presentation, "The strategy is sound, the code [that the
strategy depends on] is real."
### Major Statements ###
Apple has a bad habit of announcing things under its breath, the end
result being that not everybody hears what Apple has announced or they're
unsure as to whether something was "really" announced. To ensure
that this doesn't happen here, below is a list of things I picked up from
the Opening Keynote that I think most developers will find to be BIG NEWS.
The speakers were Dr. Amelio, John Rubenstein (senior vice president of
hardware development), and Avadis (Avie) Tevanian Jr. (senior vice president
of software engineering). If this isn't official enough, I don't know what
- Apple's Dual OS strategy. Apple is pursuing a dual
OS strategy that includes both the Mac OS and the new operating system
based on Apple and NeXT technology, code-named Rhapsody. Rhapsody is not
meant to be a replacement for the Mac OS. According to Avie Tevanian, "The
Mac OS is so important to moving our business forward. We have no plans
for Rhapsody to replace the Mac OS anytime soon.
- New life for the Mac OS. Apple promised yearly major
releases of the Mac OS: Mac OS 8 (Tempo) this July (and it's on schedule),
Allegro (mid-1998), Sonata (mid-1999), and--this was new to me as well--an
unnamed release for mid-2000. "The Mac OS will continue for years
to come," Dr. Amelio said, "and customers can migrate to Rhapsody
at their own speed." Apple announced that the Mac OS engineering team
was fully staffed and would continue to improve the Mac OS, increasing
its performance and stability and improving the OS in ways that would add
value for customers *without* depending on developer adoption of new technologies.
- Rhapsody for Intel. Yes, yes, yes--Apple executives
have mentioned this before, but talking about it at WWDC as part of a larger
strategy should make it official in everybody's eyes: There *will* be a
version of the Rhapsody operating system that will run on Intel Pentium
computers. It won't have the Blue Box (which allows the PowerPC processor-based
version of Rhapsody to run Mac OS software), but it'll be identical otherwise.
Recompile your Rhapsody application and it'll run on Intel computers that
are running this operating system.
- Apple's Yellow Box strategy. Most of the innovation
in Rhapsody will come from what Apple has code-named the "Yellow Box."
The Yellow Box is based on the OpenStep operating system that Apple acquired
from NeXT Software, but it also contains key Apple technologies, including
the QuickTime Media Layer (QuickTime, QuickTime VR, and QuickDraw 3D) and
Perhaps the biggest announcement of the day (and of the entire conference)
is that the Yellow Box is not just the "engine" within Rhapsody,
but rather a development platform--implemented as a set of APIs (application
programming interfaces)--that allows you to write one set of source code
and, by recompiling for each platform, reach *five* separate platforms.
The five platforms are:
- the Rhapsody (for PowerPC) operating system
- the Rhapsody for Intel operating system
- Mac OS
- Windows 95/Windows NT (one recompilation reaches both platforms)
Support for Rhapsody, Windows 95, and Windows NT will be out as soon
as Rhapsody comes out. (Support for these three platforms is based on technologies
that NeXT has been shipping as commercial products, so this part of Apple's
strategy is more than an unimplemented intention.) Nothing was said about
exactly when Rhapsody for Intel will come out. Yellow Box for Mac OS functionality
is due in mid-1998 with the release of Allegro.
Because the technology that allows a Yellow Box application to run on top
of Windows 95 or Windows NT is based on licensed technology, there has
been a fear that you would have to pay a royalty for each copy of an application
that uses this technology. One big piece of news that came out during the
Opening Keynote is that Apple would make this technology available to you
through a no-fee license--meaning that you can deploy your Yellow Box application
on Windows 95 and Windows NT without it costing you a cent extra.
Apple's announcement of the Yellow Box strategy makes Apple's position
stronger than ever. Some developers said they needed a single development
solution that would cover both the Mac OS and Rhapsody platforms--now they
have it. Others said they needed a single development solution that is
cross-platform between the Windows world and the Apple world--now they
have that, too.
In short, the Yellow Box strategy removes many of the objections that developers
have had about developing for the computers that Apple and its licensees
- Java. Sun's Java environment is a component of the
Yellow Box, meaning that it is also part of the five platforms mentioned
above and that Java programs can run, unmodified, on any of them.
In addition, Apple is making it possible for Java programs to access the
Yellow Box APIs. Think of what this means: You still have a Java program
that, *without* recompilation, will run on the five platforms mentioned
above--and they have access to a far more sophisticated set of routines
(the Yellow Box API) than is available to a plain-vanilla Java program.
Such a solution gives you the best of both worlds--the portability of Java
and the extra power and flexibility of a full-featured development environment.
### Final Thoughts ###
*Whew!* That was just the Opening Keynote session. Afterwards,
I attended Mac OS and Rhapsody technical sessions that gave more details
on Apple's OS strategy, as well as details on some other important topics--most
notably, Apple's emphasis on Internet support in its operating systems,
and the WebObjects technology for producing dynamically-created web pages.
I'll mention briefly the Opening Keynote demos, which included:
- a demo of Mac OS 8 (Tempo)
- a demo of the Blue Box (which showed the current beta
version of Mac OS 8 running within Rhapsody)
- the current (pre-Developer Release) version of Rhapsody,
running on a PowerPC processor-based Macintosh
- a Java program that displayed a rotating QuickDraw 3D
object (by calling QuickDraw 3D through the Yellow Box)
Also, I have to mention an unsolicited comment that one developer, Stephen
David Beck, from Louisiana State University, made at lunch: "I was
impressed not just by the demos but by the implications of those demos--namely,
that Rhapsody is farther along than I expected."
I think he--and the majority of developers at WWDC today--was seeing what
I see: namely, an Apple that has its act together, that has articulated
a promising new direction, and that has shown concrete evidence that it
will be able to deliver what it promised. And that's a good place to start
one's climb back to greatness, once again.