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TUAW Interview series with Wil Shipley: The Leopard delay - does it change anything?

In the first interview of this new mini-series, Brent Simmons of NewsGator / NetNewsWire shared some of his thoughts on Apple's delay of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in light of the iPhone. For this second installment, Wil Shipley of Delicious Monster / Delicious Library steps up to the plate on feeling like a new programmer again, a reason to be happy that Leopard was delayed and why the iPhone's release is a great time to work at Delicious Monster. Wil has a great perspective on Apple and their products, and - as anyone who reads his Call Me Fishmeal blog will know - an entertaining way with words. Read on for Wil's responses to my questions after the jump.

TUAW: Many critics and general users are freaking out about the Leopard delay. They've been criticizing Apple for becoming less of a computer company and more of a gadget maker, and events like the dropping of 'Computer' from their name and now the delay of their desktop OS are fueling these complaints. Since it's a big topic, however, I wanted to open by getting your thoughts as a Mac OS X developer.

Wil Shipley: I think it'd be completely disingenuous for me to complain about Apple getting distracted by devices as I listen to one of my six iPods and wait for delivery of my iPhone. If they were making crappy devices, maybe I'd have room to complain, but as long as they are making awesome devices that integrate well with their awesome computers, I don't see myself making a fuss.

Besides just liking their stuff, as a company Delicious Monster profits from devices like iPods and iPhones -- we already integrate Delicious Library with iPods (the ones with screens) and I don't doubt that in the future we'll do something fun with Library and iPhone. I see Apple products as complementary parts of a healthy ecosystem.

If you've already gone Leopard-only with a product or two (or were considering it), does the October delay change that decision at all? Would it be worth it - or even possible - to switch gears/backtrack to build in 10.4 support and ship sooner?

I would never switch Delicious Library 2 back to Tiger -- not with CoreAnimation and Objective-C 2.0. The changes to Cocoa are so fundamental that I feel I'm learning to program again, at yet a higher level. Going from 10.5 to 10.4 would be like going from 10.4 to Windows -- it's just not worth any possible monetary gain.

I'm really grateful for the extra time to polish my app, actually. It's tough to be writing an app while Apple is writing the features that the app uses -- there's a lot of debugging of their bugs, which slows me way down -- but that's simply a fact of working with a beta operating system. (I think Apple engineers hate me more than any person on the planet by now, with all the reports I've filed. I admit I'm not always nice in them.)

Also as a Mac OS X developer, what are your thoughts on the pseudo-closed nature of Apple's new gadgets? The Apple TV isn't *officially* a 3rd party device, but it appears as though Apple has left the door wide open. The iPhone, as far as we know, is still a closed device. Do you want to develop for these devices? Any product ideas you care to share?

There are obvious possible tie-ins with Delicious Library 3 (yes, that's the next next version -- 2 isn't even out yet) and the iPhone -- it's camera might allow you to, say, scan books in directly, and then it could just wirelessly sync with the computer. Or your iPhone could automatically wirelessly compare your favorite books or movies with other iPhone users you meet, and if you have similar tastes you could automatically make recommendations to each other -- welcome to the social, for real.

There are a ton of possibilities, but first Apple has to (a) finish the iPhone, then (b) clean up the APIs so that outside people can use them, and then (c) figure out how they are going to implement security and stability requirements for 3rd-party apps. That's a pretty big to-do list, so I'm going to give them some leeway and not get all upset if the iPhone isn't programmable the day it ships.

This time next year, though, that thing better be open, or Steve's getting a call.

Do you think Apple should have designed at least one or the other to be wide open to 3rd parties with a publicized plugin architecture? Should the company modify this practice with its future peripheral/gadget offerings?

The Apple TV really should be more open -- it's especially insane that it can't play WMV or DIVX out of the box, considering there are free plug-ins to QuickTime that do this. Seriously, Apple, you're supposed to be the flexible ones.

Hopefully all these hacks people are doing will inspire Apple to improve the Apple TV. I bought one as soon as it came out but since I already have a dedicated Mac mini with a terabyte drive running my entertainment system, the Apple TV really didn't have any advantages.

From your experience with this delay, do you have any advice for budding developers in terms of building their software for one or more versions of Mac OS X? Should they put all their bytes in one basket, or support at least one previous version?

Screw the previous version. People who are going to buy software from you are going to buy software from Apple. People who don't upgrade their OS aren't "customers", they are "squatters." If they don't trust Apple and Leopard, why would they trust your little company and its little product?

When we released the first version of Delicious Library it was on a fairly recent version of Mac OS, and we were amazed that over the first year we only received two or three complaints about this -- everyone else who wanted our app had either upgraded or felt it was reasonable to upgrade the OS to get new apps.

Any closing thoughts on the Leopard delay, Apple's direction as a company or the impact of the iPhone? On the latter, be honest: is your credit card already eager and waiting? Or are you sticking with your [insert mobile phone here, if you have one]?

The Leopard delay is a good thing for developers, because the last thing we need is for Apple to release a half-baked OS and then expect us to write good apps on top of their crappy foundation. If I wanted to do that, I'd program for Windows.

The day the iPhone comes out I'm buying them for everyone in my company -- if anyone out there on the net wants a free MOTORAZR, I'll have four of them, you just have to pay shipping.
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Of course, a big thanks to Wil for taking the time to answer my questions. May I also take this opportunity to say that I would make a great addition to the Delicious Monster team come late Spring / early Summer; I have plenty of blogging experience and, uh... I'm very enthusiastic about UI and software design.

While I wait for that part-time job offer from Mr. Shipley, stay tuned for forthcoming interviews from Paul Kafasis (CEO of Rogue Amoeba), Gus Mueller (of Flying Meat software) and Allan Odgaard (of Macromates).

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