OS X Opens Doors To Small Developers: Inside Econ Technologies

OS X is Appleis new baby and Steve Jobs has been preaching that if you intend to develop for the Mac youid better do it in OS X. Mr. Jobs emphasized this notion when he gave his now famous eulogy for OS 9 at the World Wide Developeris Conference this past May, making it clear that Apple considers OS 9 dead technology. That may be how Apple sees it, but what about developers? How has the move to OS X affected them?

Regardless of what Apple may say, moving to a new OS is not a simple thing, especially if you must continue to support a legacy product line. Developers must foot the bill for the time and effort to create new apps or modify existing apps to run in OS X. Better yet, until those new or modified apps are out the door and selling, no money is coming in for the development work that was done. Itis a gamble that sometimes pays off nicely, or nearly as often turns out to be a loss, as was the case with Keralia Software, the makers of Watson.

Econ Technologies is a small development shop here in sunny Oveido Florida. Econ started 10 years ago, primarily creating specialized applications for the Apple IIGS, and then on Macs, for its clients. The company also does some consulting work. While versed in Windows and Java development, Econis current primary focus is developing for the Mac. At the moment Econ Technologies has four applications specifically designed for OS X: Portraits and Prints, Template Maker, ChronoSync, and Image Caster.

TMO met with Duilio Proni, President of Econ Technologies, and Joe Japes, Director of Marketing and Customer Service for Econ Technologies, and spent some time listening to how they view Apple, and OS X.

"I use to worry about Appleis development environment," lamented Duilio Proni when we asked him how he viewed the current climate of OS X development, "Iive been burned by Apple before with things like PowerTalk and OpenDoc. OS X and Cocoa is different. Cocoa allows us to develop applications in a few months instead of the months and months of development time it use to take to get an application out the door, and long development times are rough on small software houses. We can produce better applications with a dramatically shorter development cycle and in the end, we can offer a wider variety of great products that are inexpensive to the consumer. Before OS X, we had ideas for new products, but found we could not reasonably act on them. Now we can. We have several products in the pipeline, and updates to our existing product line on the way."

Joe Japes shows off his antique PB
Joe Japes shows off his antique PB

Joe Japes agrees that Cocoa and OS X is a boon to the small developer. "OS X allows a small company like ours to control its own destiny."

Indeed, just recently Econ Technologies released ImageCaster, a slick Webcam application that allows you to quickly and easily set up and maintain a Webcam on your Web site. Theyive also just released an update to their popular Portraits and Prints application. Still, developing applications, even in an environment like Cocoa, is a gamble.

"We were surprised by Appleis announcement of iCal," said Joe Japes, "we were putting the finishing touches on our own calendar/organizer program. We were 95% complete. When we went to MACWORLD (New York) and saw iCal, we immediate felt the impact. iCal looks good and has a good interface, in fact, there are some screens that look a lot like ours. iCal will hurt us because it looks like iCal is in direct competition with our app. We still intend to bring out our calendar program, we just need to differentiate it from iCal. Weill release it quietly and see what happens."

We asked Mr. Japes if he saw Appleis development efforts with applications like iCal and Sherlock 3 as a problem for small developers. "Not at all. We like the iApps, they give Apple more value which, in turn, sells machines. Apple has to sell computers and sell their operating system, and iApps make both attractive. We believe that as the Mac market grows, so do opportunities for developers."

"We see OS X as an opportunity," said Mr. Proni, "we can now see a way to create applications that simply were not possible before, thanks to Cocoa and OS X."