Matt Gemmell

My new book CHANGER is out now!

An action-adventure novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon

Just had a rant at Apple

Source 1 min read

I just used the Mac OS X feedback form at to send a bit of a rant about Apple keeping certain APIs private, including Menu Extras, CALCore (for iCal integration), Mail plugins, and more. The Menu Extras thing is particularly troubling - Apple actually deliberately broke third-party code with the release of Jaguar. Jag refuses to load Menu Extras which aren’t included in a hard-coded list of Apple-brand Menu Extras. What a complete bastard of a thing to do!

It’s this Jobs-mentality that troubles me - it’s their way, or no way at all. Highlight colours can be blue or grey (Aqua or Graphite, if you like). You can’t disable the swooshy graphics effects. And so on. Now they treat developers - the life-blood of the platform - like naughty children, heavy-handedly dictating which APIs we can and cannot have access to. It’s not like this is code that isn’t ready for public use - the Mail plugin API has existed in one form or another for years, within on NEXTSTEP.

With the advent of this “new Macs won’t boot into 9” stuff, Apple is pretty much forcing everyone who hasn’t yet upgraded to OS X (and that’s about 90% of the Mac user-base, if memory serves) to make a big decision really soon: take a chance on OS X, or jump ship to Windows XP. Now, I’m no fan of Windows, but XP is becoming a decent operating system. OS X is a paradise for developers, the above complaints notwithstanding, but as a Mac OS X developer I feel more reigned-in by Apple than I did on OS 9.

Also, there’s this whole bundled-apps thing. Once upon a time, you’d maybe have used SoundJam, Palm Desktop, AIM, GraphicConverter, and so on. Now Apple bundles free (albeit limited-featureset) apps with the OS, potentially hurting third-party software sales. It’s a great thing to enhance the OS and add value, but this practice of adding more and more Apple-branded bundled apps becomes a lot more questionable when coupled with hiding APIs from developers. It all smells bad, and not unfamiliar.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the success of OS X, I recommend you take a trip to the feedback form, and make a polite but firm request that Apple open-up more of their private APIs, to enhance the tools available to developers. Mention CALCore, Mail plugins, Menu Extras, and any of your own personal bugbears if you’re a developer. They do seem to listen to this stuff, so have your say. I dearly love the Mac, and I really love OS X, and I don’t want this Jobsian my-way-or-nothing mentality to reduce the Mac’s user-base any more than absolutely necessary.

I’m off to have some fajitas. :)