Speculation about Apple... and Sun

MacNewsWorld hosts an article that is always interesting, sometimes insightful and occasionally a little wrong in my view, but well worth reading just the same. Paul Murphy offers a broad analysis that spans hardware and software. Here's my play-by-play feedback and 2 cents...

  • Paul's comments on Sun's throughput computing capability are right on; but don't forget Sun's x86 capability with Solaris x86 for high performance on low-end servers and (most definitely along with Linux) especially for desktops (via Java Desktop System); also, SunRay runs JDS extremely well - startup performance is even better than a standalone desktop (because application binaries are almost always already in memory) and the shared SunRay CPUs give you extra desktop power when you need it, not to mention better security, reliability and the downright damn beautiful experience of connecting to your desktop by just putting a card into any SunRay desktop in an office or on a campus - I never get tired of that, nor the delighted amazement when a new employee at our office experiences it for the first time
  • Paul speculates about IBM's evolution path for PowerPC which Apple depends on; I think porting the Mac OS shell is not the key issue (any properly layered software stack is pretty portable), but maintaining 100% compatibility with the Mac OS platform API's and the porting impact on ISV's developing applications for Mac OS might be more of an issue; I note that IBM do have a desktop/portal hyrbrid product (Workplace, based incidentally on (an old version of) OpenOffice.org) so Apple's boxes don't only compete in the server space
  • He also raises the old chestnut of Mac OS desktop running on Sun hardware, especially SunRay; Mac OS certainly has cool coming out of its pixels, but don't overlook the importance of a user experience that facilitates migration from Windows (JDS has this in spades)
  • He also speculates on the value of a Mac OS graphics porting layer to allow say GNOME-based apps to run on it; this certainly makes sense as it gives ISVs a broader platform to target and the Gtk-Win32 port shows that this is not only possible but practical (though it would need more vendor commitment which Gtk-Win32 does not yet have enough of)

I hope you've enjoyed this cocktail of thoughts and speculations from Paul Murphy and I - but what do you think?


You say "... but don't overlook the importance of a user experience that facilitates migration from Windows (JDS has this in spades)". Very true, but IMHO JDS currently overlooks the importance of a user experience that facilitates migration from CDE. :-(

Posted by Rich Teer on January 04, 2005 at 04:40 AM PST #

As I pointed out to the last Sun blogger to cite this piece, it was actually written back in the summer: This story was originally published on July 8, 2004, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series. I still don't think it's worth a "Best of" rating.

Posted by Geoff Arnold on January 04, 2005 at 09:50 AM PST #

Mac O/S running on Sunray a bad idea? I totally disagree. I designed the first Sunray clients years ago while I was still with Sun (another story) and I recently experienced my first Mac with O/S 10.3, and I must say that every time I sit down to use it I can only think "why couldn't Sun ever come up with something like this?? This is the Solaris environment done right!". I can't even begin to imagine how wonderful a Sunray and Solaris 10 x86 with a Mac-like O/S X windowing sytem could be. Heck, I'd even ditch my PC and Mac in a heartbeat if I had that! The fact is however that as long as Sun continues to view windowing systems as an after-thought (like printing) like it always has, people will never become inspired to think of Sun's machines as anything more than back-end utility solutions for a declining IT workforce. Gnome? KDE? give me a break!

Posted by Marc Schneider on January 05, 2005 at 02:06 AM PST #

Marc, I didn't say Mac OS shell running on Sunray was a bad idea, I said it overlooks the importance of a UI (like GNOME) that facilitates migration from Windows.

I agree with you that Mac standard software has generally set a high standard that can only be achieved by a fresh approach to designing UI's that is strongly led by usability experts, not necessarily software experts.

One negative perception (formed by only limited use) however is that some tasks can only be performed via drag and drop; those features are hard to expose to users with accessibility needs.

There is no question but I would like to see the Mac OS graphical shell available as an option on Sun hardware, but in my view Apple's success is based on creating \*appliances\* (in Don Norman's sense of the word) that provide a tailored end-to-end user experience; I'm not sure they would readily give away their secret sauce software to run on another vendor's hardware.

Posted by Colm Smyth on January 05, 2005 at 02:21 AM PST #

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