7 Apps on Leopard’s Hit List

While yesterday’s preview of Leopard didn’t show too much (I’m talking about the “top secret” features that Steve left out this time around), it did show enough to, well, make quite a few shareware and freeware applications somewhat obsolete. We all know that Apple doesn’t have a problem scalping the Mac shareware market for good ideas (think Watson), and ultimately I don’t have a huge problem with it as long as Apple’s solutions are better. But whether it’s justifiable or not what they do, they have done it, and are continuing to do it with OS X Leopard. Here’s a list of existing 3rd party applications that are going to find themselves losing a lot of sales or a lot of downloads in the upcoming months with 10.5’s upcoming release. Or, alternatively and rather optimistically, you can take it as a list of applications to hold you over and in many cases provide satisfying near-Leopard functionality until you can get your hands on the upgrade.

iChat 4

To start, my friend Kent Sutherland, developer of Chax, is going to find himself losing his software’s most attractive feature: tabs. Over the past few months, Chax has become extremely widely used due largely to its implementation of tabs in iChat, coupled with the utility’s pricetag (free) and many other smaller but useful added features. (Another feature now implemented in iChat 4 that can currently be enabled using Chax, animated buddy icons.)

No matter what though, Chax is going to stay around. It simply adds a ton of little useful features to iChat that Apple themselves would never implement due to their philosophy of simplicity. Plus it’s free, for now. But one thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of users out there who use Chax primarily for tabs, and it’s likely that many of them won’t be reinstalling it once Leopard rolls around. Here are some thoughts post-keynote from Kent:

From what I’ve seen it seems to me although Apple has finally implemented some of the most lacking things, there is still plenty to take care of. I think that’s actually good for everyone in the long run because Apple can certainly implement those features better than I can, giving me a stronger base with which to make further improvements.

ShowMacster is another iChat plugin that unfortunately suffers in two ways compared to Chax. It’s shareware, and it’s more of a one trick pony. Like iChat 4’s “Screen Sharing” feature, ShowMacster allows you to mirror your Desktop to your iChat buddy through video chat. In fact, they both do exactly the same thing, which isn’t the greatest thing for the $19 ShowMacster, as any Leopard customer will have it built-in for free. This one’s basically going to have to evolve or die, unless its developer will be satisfied with a pre-10.5 customerbase. And honestly, the latter option doesn’t seem too viable. There have been apps before that attempt to bring features in system updates to people who aren’t able to or prefer not to upgrade, and as far as I know, they haven’t done too well in shareware form.

Script Software’s ChatFX was a really cute, unique add-on to iChat that enabled iSight owning users to spice up video chats with Quartz Composer effects (aka, Photobooth like distortions and filters) and even change your location to exotic locales using its bluescreen background movie and image compositing support. I say was, because it isn’t quite unique anymore. iChat 4 can do all this and more, making ChatFX’s $20 price point pretty much, well, overpriced.

Time Machine

Well, considering the crowded shareware backup market for the Mac, I’m pretty sure a lot of developers felt a knot tighten in their stomach as Steve’s screen slid away to reveal the starry landscape of Time Machine. But perhaps none felt it more than Dave Nanian, the developer of the best-selling, award-winning backup utility SuperDuper!. Or not:

I see the two solutions as complimentary: Time Machine does a great job of providing temporal rollback, and we provide great failover support.

Denial or a smart way out? Only time will tell, but from my brief interactions with Dave, I think he should be able to figure out a way to dig himself out of this hole.

Spaces

Apple’s multiple desktop implementation rather obviously replaces the several existing applications, the most popular of which is probably VirtueDesktops, Tony Arnold’s recent spinoff from the once popular DesktopManager. Once again, like Chax, VirtueDesktops benefits from being both free and more feature-filled than Apple’s new competitor. But unlike Chax, VirtueDesktop’s features aren’t quite as plentiful and/or necessary. Tony tends to agree. And what about CodeTek’s VirtualDesktop Pro? Let’s just say that with two freeware competitors and Leopard’s upcoming implementation, the situation is looking comparatively grimmer. From Tony Arnold, developer of VirtueDesktops:

“It looks like Apple has done a fantastic job with Spaces under Leopard – I had heard the rumours, but to be honest it doesn’t worry me (strange, no?) – I like the fact that they’ve integrated it so tightly with the OS – that was always the goal of VirtueDesktops. So booyah to Apple and all that, I guess. HOWEVER: Arlo and Perry made muchos moolah off Konfabulator when Apple screwed them, so I’ll be pissed if Yahoo! doesn’t buy me for millions of dollars in about 6 months”

Spotlight

Apple’s been working on improving Spotlight, and one thing they emphasized during the Keynote was better implementation (and more focus) on its functionality as an application launcher. This doesn’t bode too well for similar applications, especially the shareware Launchbar ($20) which also bills itself largely as an application launcher. Then again, I doubt Launchbar’s been doing too well recently with freeware alternatives like Quicksilver. Like Chax, Quicksilver shouldn’t have much of a problem with Spotlight 2.0. It’s freeware, and they have legions of powerusers addicted to its boatload of features. But watch out Launchbar, even a Macworld Eddie award may not be enough to keep sales up post-Leopard.

Core Animation

One of the more wowing demos during the Keynote was that of Core Animation, Apple’s new technology that enables developers to harness it and produce some amazing 2D and 3D animations with ease. Steve’s iTunes album art example was just a tech demo, but it was implied that it would replace the current screensaver in Leopard, and man, was it amazing to watch. The most interesting part probably was when he began to navigate around these flying 3D album art images, selected one, and it flew up to display track listings and such. It’s not too hard to imagine a little bit more interactivity beyond that, and allow users to browse and play music through a similar interface. (Whether in a screensaver, the new Front Row, the next version of iTunes, or whatever.) If that happens, there’s an app that is going to have a hard time going shareware, and that’s CoverFlow, which had a deserved spot on my previous Top Ten Most Beautiful OS X Apps list. Unfortunately, CoverFlow looks like it could now be developed by a developer well-versed in Core Animation in about 2 days. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Its developer will have to really pimp up CoverFlow to have it compete with whatever Leopard is going to offer as competition this coming Spring.

Mail

While I won’t get into Mail’s implementation of notes and to do for now, one group of apps are going to be very clearly affected by another little thing that wasn’t even mentioned during the Keynote. Sharp eyes spotted an “RSS” item in the Mail inbox column, and as developer of Pulp Fiction would know, this is a very very intuitive place to stick in feed items, pushing Mail towards something like the ultimate data center rather than just, well, Mail. We’ll have to see how this one goes, but combined with Safari RSS, news aggregator developers (of which there are many of them) are going to have to start buckling down.

To end this, I got a quick quote from Karelia’s Dan Wood, developer of Watson (ripped off soon after with Apple’s Sherlock) and Sandvox (ripped off right before its release with iWeb). Short and sweet, but it seems to sum up most developers’ position on this issue that comes up again and again with Apple:

I guess it’s sort of old news … Apple’s been doing this for at least four years.

I think i detect a tone of weariness and perhaps a bit of resignation there. It’s a pity that Apple is so aggressive with the small-time shareware and freeware developers that are in the end, supporting Apple much more so than Apple is supporting them, but it looks like the only thing to do is to suck it up and look for the next insanely great thing.

In addition, Chris Messina has a similar post on his blog with some more apps and a similar viewpoint. Check that out.

Originally posted on PhillRyu.com

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1 comment so far

  1. trucex on

    In my opinion, I’d rather have the features built into the OS than having to go for a third-party solution. HOWEVER, I think it is wrong for Apple to leave these guys hanging. Perhaps offer the guys with better ideas jobs (apparently they thought of something you didn’t) or offer them some sort of “Thanks and Sorry” cash…it’s not like they haven’t been dishing it out lately (forcibly, but hey).


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