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TUAW Interview series with Gus Mueller: The Leopard delay - does it change anything?

The interview train just keeps on chuggin', and this time we have Gus Mueller of Flying Meat Software, developer of VoodooPad, FlySketch and FlyGesture, on board. Just like the other interviews I've done with Brent Simmons, Wil Shipley and Paul Kafasis, Gus had some great thoughts to share on the Leopard delay, whether to develop software for one specific OS, words of wisdom from a Nintendo game developer and how Apple's past behavior can hint at the possibility of the iPhone opening up up to 3rd parties sometime in the future. Amazing fact from this particular interview: Gus's mobile phone just turned 7.

Read on for my interview with Gus Mueller.

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.

Gus: I don't think there's any reason for people to freak out. Delays happen all the time when writing software, and we've probably been spoiled as it is; this is the 6th major release of OS X, and the first real slip that I can think of in that time. And these new gadgets from Apple are very much computers in their own right.

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?

The next big release of FlySketch is set to be 10.5 only. Since I've all of a sudden got an extra 4 months to work on it, I'm going to be taking that time to update VoodooPad, which I've been neglecting lately. So yes, the plans have changed a little. I actually got FlySketch running on 10.4 the other day, but it's missing a handful of (major) features and it doesn't really feel the same. I really want it to use some of the 10.5 goodies that are coming out, so I'm going to stick with that plan.

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?

I would love to have the ability to write apps for the Apple TV. And I was really hoping that the Apple TV would have been based on 10.5 because I've played around with Core Animation a little bit, and it seems to make writing quick little games super easy. The Apple TV would have been an ideal place to play those games. But unfortunately that didn't happen, so I'm sort of bummed out about that.

And of course I want to develop for the iPhone. Any Mac OS X developer who says otherwise is lying!

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?

I think they will eventually open up these gadgets to 3rd party folks. Apple has a history of doing this for developers:

1) Make the product (AddressBook in 10.2 for example)
2) Get the APIs right and test it out with internal applications (Mail.app using AddressBook)
3) Opening up a public API to the product (which we eventually got in 10.3)

I could be wrong about the exact OS versions, but the idea is the same. And you see it happening with other products as well, so I'm not giving up hope.

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?

I've always thought that new applications and major upgrades (like a 2.0) should support the current OS, and all minor upgrades (1.x) should support the OS that they ship on. But as with anything, it depends.

If you're a new developer just starting out, I'd say ship for 10.4 only right now. You're going to have enough on your plate learning about all the cool stuff to take advantage of that's already there.

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 unfortunate, but ultimately it's not a big deal, and most everyone will forget it ever happened once they are running the goodness of 10.5. Shigeru Miyamoto (who created Zelda, Mario, and bunch of other Nintendo games) once said "A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever".

I'm not a big mobile phone guy though - my current phone just celebrated it's 7th birthday. That said, my credit card is waiting for an iPod that's running OS X.

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I'd like to thank Gus for taking the time for an interview, as well as enlightening us with words of wisdom from a video game legend.

We have one more interview to go folks, and it is with Allan Odgaard of Macromates, makers of the excellent TextMate. Look for it tomorrow to wrap up this series.

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