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Exploring Developer Central at Macworld Boston

Once again Apple and MacTech Magazine teamed up to sponsor the Developer Central booth at Boston’s Macworld Expo. Developer Central is nearly 7,000 square feet of the show dedicated to over thirty vendors of Macintosh developer tools.

Not only is Developer Central the place to get the latest news about programmers tools, but it is also the best place to meet the people who get down and dirty with the Mac. As I crossed the line into the Developer Central area, the atmosphere changed. The people here don’t just use a Mac, they live and breathe Macintosh.

Apple had a strong presence, and they showed off many Apple technologies such as QuickTime VR, OpenDoc, and Apple Media Toolkit. Unfortunately, Dell Computer was absent this time around; last January they had barricaded their booth with sand bags to protect themselves from what they thought would be an onslaught of Macintosh developers. Apple brought up the slack by inviting Windows developers to join the Macintosh evolution with a "Starter Kit for Windows Developers" providing information about the many opportunities and resources available to Macintosh developers. Much of the same information is available on the Web.

Apple also offered a first look at the Pippin running as a TV set-top box. It was configured to receive hundreds of MPEG compressed video channels as well as video on demand and online games, all with simple mouse clicks. Due out later this year for only a few hundred dollars, Pippin might prove to be yet another platform opportunity for Macintosh developers.

One of the better goodies for programmers to come away with was Apple’s OpenDoc DR3 CD-ROM. In exchange for turning in a completed questionnaire, Apple gave all comers a CD packed with the latest versions of OpenDoc, OpenDoc Development Framework (1.0d9), 30 MB of sample source code, and 53 MB of third-party part editors. With the OpenDoc development tools so readily available, plenty of OpenDoc part editors should appear in the next few months.

Pictorious, makers of the visual programming environment Prograph CPX, exhibited an almost-finished version of Peregrine. Peregrine takes visual programming to a higher level than Prograph CPX, providing point and click support for building client/server applications. Without writing a single line of code, a programmer can build an application to access popular SQL database servers over a network. Peregrine should be available later this year.

Allegiant Technologies was showing SuperCard 2.5. This version includes support for Windows runtime, QuickTime VR, and 24-bit video. It offers a new plug-in architecture for card transitions, providing more than the original wipe and dissolve we all had so much fun with when we first met HyperCard. Allegiant was also talking about enhancing SuperCard with tools for scripting the main Internet protocols, which could prove interesting.

Symantec and Metrowerks were both present in force. Symantec is pushing ahead with their plug-in architecture for new compilers in Symantec Developer Advantage 4, planned for release in October. Metrowerks is hot on their heels with the next CodeWarrior release due in September. Unfortunately we won’t see the expected CodeWarrior 2.0 in this release, but maybe by January.

Digitool jumped on the Internet bandwagon with Mac CL-HTTP, a Web server based on their Macintosh Common Lisp 3.0 product. I think you would have be a hard-core Lisp aficionado to run a Web server this way, but it should offer great flexibility for customizing your Internet service.

Dev Deals — Typically I find that Expo prices are not as good as mail order prices, but the developer tools are an exception. Many of the products shown were available for purchase at considerable discount from the MacTech Mail Order Store and from APDA as show specials. I plan to save my change for the next Expo.

And As for the Rest — Many other development tool vendors were showing the current versions of their products, but they’re too numerous to list. Apple and MacTech Magazine did us all a service by compiling the Virtual Dev Central CD-ROM included in the bag of information handed to everyone exploring Developer Central. This CD contains a list of all the participants, sample applications, and Web pages for the better-connected tool vendors. The CD even includes the CodeWarrior Lite development environment to help fledgling programmers get started. MacTech’s Web server contains detailed information about each participant.

If you are a programmer, or just like hanging out with programmers, stop by Developer Central at the next Macworld Expo. I’ll be there.

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