Latest in the line of Macintosh emulators to be announced (but how many of those have actually shipped – two?) come two programs from a small developer called Quorum. First, and most interesting is Latitude, a set of libraries that can be used to compile ANSI standard C code into a binary application that will run on several different RISC-based Unix workstations, including machines from Sun, IBM and Silicon Graphics. This method of porting the code directly (more or less, anyway, depending on how the code has been customized) from the Mac to the Unix environment has a number of positive features. Since Latitude replaces the Macintosh interface specifics with whatever windowing system is in use on the Unix box – Open Look, Motif, etc. – you don’t need Apple’s proprietary System and Finder. That has been a big barrier for many of the other emulators, because to create a true Macintosh clone, you have to have the real System and Finder. Latitude uses the operating system and windowing environment of the RISC machine, so that’s no problem. In addition, since Latitude creates a native binary application on the Unix box, that application will run at speeds you would expect out of a RISC machine – fast, to understate the situation. Finally, since Quorum based the display parts of Latitude on Adobe’s Display PostScript, there is no conflict Apple’s patented QuickDraw software (which is why most other emulators have required that you find some Mac ROMs to pop in).
Equal is the second product from Quorum, and unlike Latitude, it does not require that Macintosh applications be recompiled to run. It will run standard applications by rerouting the Mac Toolbox calls to the equivalent in the RISC machine’s OS and windowing system. Of course, the price for not having to recompile the application is speed, since Equal has to intercept almost everything a normal application does and translate it into the appropriate calls for the host machine. Nonetheless, remember that a typical RISC machine will still stomp on a normal Mac in performance, so the end result may still be decent. We’ve heard a couple of off-the-cuff comparisons, one comparing Equal to a Plus, the other to a IIci. I’d like the IIci personally. No idea what pricing will be on these programs yet, but people have been tossing around $1000 as a price for Equal, a typical price for Unix applications.
Of course, lots of Mac software will not work with these products because it simply won’t make sense. For instance, if you have no System and Finder, extensions that modify them in some way won’t work. Similarly, any program that touches hardware directly won’t work because that hardware can’t be there in the same way. Nonetheless, Latitude and Equal seem like the strongest entries in the Mac emulation market (such as it is) so far. One plus of Latitude particularly is that it will allow third party developers like Aldus, Quark, Adobe, and Microsoft (nah, probably not Microsoft – they don’t use standard programming practices anyway as far as anyone can tell) to recompile their flagship products for Unix, thus allowing them to quickly broaden their markets without the trouble of rewriting the entire program and maintaining two completely different sets of source code. Only really Lotus, WordPerfect, Frame and perhaps a few others have managed to provide much in the way of multiple platform versions in the past, but that might change with Latitude.
I’m sure that Apple is not terribly happy about this state of affairs, but from what I’ve heard, Quorum is on fairly stable legal ground (considering they’re in California, it’s nice to have some sort of stable ground). Even still, Apple has a lot of money and a lot of clout and might even buy Quorum outright if they so choose. That’s assuming that Quorum is selling, but everyone has a price. Time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted.
Quorum — 415/323-3111
Don Sleeter — [email protected]
MacWEEK — 20-Jan-92, Vol. 6, #3, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 03-Feb-92, Vol. 9, #5, pg. 47