A reader recently commented that it would be great if we could provide short abstracts with the titles in the distribution files (for those of us who can’t sight-read either Binhex or StuffIt format :-)). We unfortunately had to reject his suggestion because writing abstracts for such short articles is kind of odd anyway, and TidBITS only takes about three minutes to download at 2400 baud one way or another. We could do so with the knowledge that the distribution files for TidBITS II will be human-readable, thus eliminating our reader’s problem.
The title of this article, though, says it all. Apple transferred responsibility for the development, marketing, distribution, and support of HyperCard to Claris, effective in November. For those of you keeping score, this would seem to mean that HyperCard is no longer considered System Software, which is distributed solely by Apple. On the other hand, with Claris firmly in hand as a wholly-owned subsidiary, Apple can farm out anything it wants to Claris without fear of competition or leaks (short of the usual ones that supply MacWEEK’s Mac the Knife with rumor fodder each week).
Two features of the press release were ominous though. The first one was a sentence that reads "The first broad US distribution of the new HyperCard 2.0 … will be a Claris product." This would imply, at face value, that HyperCard will not be available until November. However, the press release does say that a version of HyperCard will continue to be shipped with all new Macs (thanks to Bill Atkinson for specifying that originally). We hope that Apple will ship HyperCard 2.0 with the new Macs being introduced in mid-October, but it’s hard to tell since the hold-ups seem to be political in part, rather than just technical setbacks. Another indication of this is that the HyperCard engineers have started posting more frequently on Usenet. The second ominous part of the press release was the part that said "A complete HyperCard 2.0 authoring system, necessary for developing stacks, will be sold by Claris." Combined with the bit about a version shipping with new Macs, this implies that there would be two versions of HyperCard, one that was read-only version and another that allowed authoring (much like ToolBook). The good news? There will be only ONE version of HyperCard. The press release is misleading and poorly worded, and thanks to Chuq Von Rospach for clearing this up on the nets. The main difference will be that the bundled version will be set at a low user level (so novices cannot mess anything up inadvertently) and the procedure for switching to a higher user level will be hidden. The positive side of this is that Claris will presumably be distributing useful developer tools with the commercial version and developer tools are what made HyperCard popular by greatly extending its abilities. Claris will also provide developer support, which is always nice to have around in a pinch.
As long as Apple continues to provide a full working version of HyperCard with every Macintosh for free, we see no problems with the transfer to Claris. In some ways now, Claris is little more than another Apple division, albeit one with a name recognizable in the market and the staff and structure to develop and sell software. Perhaps Claris will be better than Apple about getting stuff out the door as well. 🙂 The free distribution policy was key in HyperCard’s popularity, though it did bias the market against commercial stacks. The only way HyperCard will disappear now is if it can be completely supplanted by Apple’s planned system scripting language, and we refuse to even hazard a guess as to when that will show its face.
Apple Computer — 408/974-3019
Claris — 408/987-7202 — 408/987-7534
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
Chuq Von Rospach — [email protected]
Mark Wilkins — [email protected]
David Emery — [email protected]
Jeanne a. e. Devoto — [email protected]