Adobe seems to have baffled the Mac community by announcing that its upcoming audio utility Soundbooth, profiled here earlier this week, would run on Intel Macs but not PowerPC Macs. MacInTouch immediately cried foul, and suddenly the Mac world, having spent the past year yelling at Adobe for not releasing Intel-native code, has begun yelling at Adobe for releasing code only for Intel.

The first response came over the weekend from Adobe’s John Nack on his personal blog, waxing largely philosophical about why it made sense to support the newer Intel Macs instead of the PowerPC platform Apple themselves had abandoned. Now, I’ll be the first to concede Mac users can be hotheaded, but I think the better response would be to cut straight to the technical reasons why Adobe’s developers made this choice. Mac users assume, because they’ve been told so repeatedly by Apple, that creating universal applications is a “checkbox-clicking affair.” You can see a comment to that effect in the extensive discussion Mr. Nack triggered on his site.

Adobe audio product manager Hart Shafer chimes in today with the simpler technical answer:

Soundbooth and PowerPC Chips [Hart’s Audition]

Basically, Soundbooth contains lots of Intel-specific code that would be inefficient to port to PowerPC, and the additional QA testing required for an additional CPU architecture was deemed an unworthy investment. (Note that the flipside of this argument would be that, as some Mac users had hoped, Apple’s switch to Intel makes development cheaper for software that’s heavily reliant on the processor, like audio apps.) Now, I’m in no position to evaluate that argument. Since a significant number of our readers are programmers, I’ll let you read his entry and tell us if you think this is a significant issue. What is interesting here is that Shafer never says Adobe’s can’t also port Audition to the Mac. I’m going to keep hoping this is possible; Peak can’t meet everyone’s needs, the excellent Spark is long gone, Apple discontinued their standalone editor product, and I think Mac users would welcome Audition with open arms. In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoy using Audition on my PC.

But, regardless of whether Adobe made the right call here (and it’s their choice to make), there is one conclusion that’s safe to draw here: cross-platform development isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Some newly-coded apps can be easily ported to multiple platforms, although (speaking as someone who routinely runs apps on Mac, Windows, and even Linux side by side) not always with equivalent performance results. Others would be so difficult to port that the time would be wasted. The irony is, the ongoing march of computer technology may mean the easiest way to use software on different platforms is to keep an extra computer handy. (Hint: rescue a computer from someone who’s going to throw it away, repair it, and laugh heartily.)

  • Christ. I made the mistake (at your suggestion, I'll add) of trying to read through the comments on John Nack's site. My personal group of people that make me lose sleep at night are FL Studio users with Edirol audio interfaces, but I truly feel sorry for Mr. Nack in particular and Adobe in general for having to put up with that nonsense.

    Cross-platform dev is only as easy as the libraries you use allow it to be. A dorky little simple thing written in straight C++ that compiles fine on Intel OSX will also compile fine for PPC if you "check the box", PROVIDED you don't use any API that Apple drastically changed before 10.3.9, which is the latest stable release, past which Everything Works. (That will undoubtedly change with the advent of Leopard.)

    We chose to discontinue support for 10.3.less_than_9 because it would have entailed building another version of the plugin, so OSX users would have to choose from a PPC 10.3.x version and a Universal Binary that ran on 10.3.9 and greater. Since 10.3.9 is a free update, and fixes a lot of problems with 10.3.x in general, it didn't take much discussion to come to the conclusion that it was pointless to support anything prior.

    In any case, I feel Mr. Nack's pain, long story short. I fail to understand why people that can't run the program anyways, and didn't have it yesterday are complaining that they don't have it today.

  • audio guru

    Not sure what all the fuss is about, too much time on your hands?

    I agree with Adobe’s position. Personally though, I won’t use soundbooth for years because I don’t own an intel mac but probably will in the next year or so. There are several excellent Power PC based audio editing programs out there. They’ve been around for at least the last ten years. Power PC user’s should know this. The one’s that are squawking at adobe for developing intel code specific software, again. Perhaps to much time on your hands.

  • bliss

    I agree 100% with Adobe's position – I completely understand it. Really weird that folks would get upset about something that didn't exist for them in the first place. I really have wished Samplitude was available for the Mac for years and years and years, still, though, I didn't get upset about it because being a Mac only user meant that the app never really existed for me as it did for my PC counterparts. Samplitude has always existed as an idea to me just as Soundbooth does now. I didn't blink twice at the news that Soundbooth was MacIntel only. However, I do understand the need for a quality audio editing application on the Mac. There have been some good attempts at building one but I wouldn't be lusting after the fantasy of using Samplitude if an equivilent on the Mac existed. My guess is that a lot of Mac users are venting at Adobe because more because they are afraid of Adobe setting a trend for developers in developing only for the MacIntel chipset. I don't blame the frustration but the anger really does seem misplaced.

  • Well, I'm going to first start off by saying I have an intel-based mac. But I kinda think this whole thing sucks…. sorta. First off, I have Soundbooth, and its not that cool of a program, Its probably mostly due to the fact that its beta, but I guess I was kinda looking for more of a mastering only type program instead of basic cut and paste audio editing. But thats neither here nor there…. Here are my thoughts

    It seems like the universal binary's original purpose was to make everything more compatible, and its looking less and less compatible, i mean, soundbooth like i said no big deal if its not for powerpc, but how long will it be until nothing works on those machines anymore which, are still really nice machines, because no one is making powerpc compatible programs. Its only been like a little less than a year since the intel-based macs arrived…. I dunno I just think that so far it looks like the whole "universal binary" plan is more or less excluding power-pc's instead of waiting for them to be phased out I guess. . . I ramble, so I'm done

  • bliss

    Pardon my spelling of "equivalent" as "equivilent" above. I'm an edit junkie, wish I could edit these things.

  • Well, clearly what got Adobe some attention here is that the bulk of development now *has* been Universal, not Intel-only. This is the first Intel-only app I've seen, myself (not saying there aren't others, but I haven't seen them). I'd say for the most part, the universal binary system has made this transition transparent for PowerPC users (less so for Intel Mac users, because of waiting for Intel-native software!)

    Anyway, not all applications are the same, and in this case we have an application that has a high concentration of the things that are hard to port.

    I'd still notice that there are comparisons made between Intel-native code in Soundbooth and Audition. I think the really interesting detail here might be that we'd finally see Audition for Mac, which really would demonstrate that this makes things easier to port. Don't want to get hopes up, though, as this may not be practical — no idea what's actually in Audition's code base.

  • Oh, and editing comments … we've talked about that before. I'll see if there's anything we can do.

  • bliss

    If MAGIX announced that they were bringing Samplitude to the Mac platform and only for MacIntel, as a PPC user I would not be upset about hearing that. Sure, if I had purchased one of the Quad G5s a year or so ago I'd be hella frustrated, but I wouldn't get upset. Well, maybe I would but more than likely I would be upset with myself because at that time it was quite clear where Apple was headed as far as Intel is concerned. Still it would be great news to hear if MAGIX made such an announcement. Anyway – at least apps are not being taken from us PPC users just yet, the future looks bright for all of the other Adobe products that are currently available for PPC and MacIntel.

  • Eric

    I can see Adobe's point. I've coded low-level DSP functions in assembly on both PPC Altivec and x86 SSE3. It's entirely possible to get identical results from both, but the architectures are completely different and the code likewise. Considering it took me a few hours to get a simple FIR to match, multiply that by the complexity of the functions they're doing and the ROI just isn't there.

  • boast

    don't forget about Audiofile Engineering’s WaveEditor. it's Universal Binary already and has been rock solid on my MacBook.

  • boast

    wow, i really messed up the XHTML tag in my comment above. i was talking about Audiofile Engineering's WaveEditor. it should read:

    "don't forget about Audiofile Engineering's WaveEditor"

  • If the choice is between "A PC application and no Mac port" or "A PC application and an Intel-Mac-only port", then of course the second choice is better.

    Better doesn't mean great. Most companies are making efforts to deliver Universal apps. Microsoft? Ahh, we don't care, users can wait and pay $$$ to upgrade to Office 2007 next year. Adobe? Ahhh, we don't care, users can wait and pay $$$ to upgrade to Photoshop CS 3 next year.

    Of course it makes financial sense. But anything can be justified by "financial sense". In the end, the question is, does it serve users? I'm not sure.


  • I've got your back boast 🙂

    I definitely think we can get comment editing going. It would have to be for registered users though.

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