Last week, John Nack, senior product manager for Photoshop, posted a blog entry regarding Adobe’s roadmap for 64-bit versions of Creative Suite apps–notably Photoshop CS4. John notes there will be a 64-bit version for Windows but not for Macintosh. Well, the shyte hit the fan so to speak. (read John’s blog entry here). You can read the “official” Adobe statement on 64-bit here(it’s a 60KB PDF download).
As might be expected, there was a whole lot of blame being slung about as well as comments from the digerati (on both sides of the argument) for why this has come to pass.
It should be noted that Adobe has long been about as platform agnostic as any software company can be. All of the mainline CS3 applications are truly cross=platform with the exception of minor keyboard commands. And while Premiere Pro had been dropped from the Mac, it’s back and better than ever. Yes, it sometimes takes longer for the Mac versions-case in point Photoshop Elements 6.0 only recently was released for Mac while the Windows version was released about 6 months ago. There are very few things that Adobe works on that isn’t essentially equal on both Mac and Windows-except for this next version of Photoshop CS4.
Well, to understand the 64-bit problem you really have to know a bit of something about 64-bit computing. Check this 64-Bit entry at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (geek warning: your eyes may glaze over reading it)
The bottom line is that 32-bit operating systems and applications can only address a certain amount of RAM and 64-bit OS’s and apps can address more. Well, for Photoshop users, that sounds like an attractive opportunity to speed up Photoshop, right? Well, sort of…for an insider’s look at what 64-bit might mean to Photoshop, check out Scott Byer’s blog entry about 64-bit, 64 bits…when? (note when the post was written-December, 2006-so it’s not like Adobe hasn’t been thinking about this for a while).
Aside from the fact that 64-bit processing for anything other than mainframe computing is very new (Apple’s Tiger had “some” 64-bit libraries but was not a true 64-bit OS and only with Vista 64 has the Windows OS finally received something other than a cobbled 64-bit OS) and the installed user base for 64-bit is very small, most Photoshop users that aren’t pumping huge files through Photoshop probably wouldn’t receive much if any benefit. So far, many people seem to be responding to the hype, not the reality of 64-bit.
Never the less, John has stated that the “next version of Photoshop” (CS4) will be 64-bit for Windows but not for Mac. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of grumpy Mac users complaining. How could this come to pass? Well, to answer that you must have a grasp on the recent history of Apple OS development and understand some of the radical changes Apple has gone through recently.
When Apple decided to drop PPC processors and go with Intel, the Earth tilted on its axis…this was probably the most major event in Apple computing since Steve Jobs came back to Apple and it was far more major in a technical manner because it required software developers to not only build their software for older PPC compatibility but also for the new MacIntel chips. That required a switch from CodeWarrior (from Metroworks) to Apple’s Xcode so that apps could be compiled to work under both PPC and MacIntel. CodeWarrior was, at the time, at version 9.0. Xcode was at version 2.1x. As a result, any software developer that wanted to build “Universal Binary” versions had to adopt an younger, much less robust compiler–Xcode.
A lot of people complained that it took so long for Adobe to finally release a UB version of Photoshop for the Mac, but very few people understood just what Adobe had to go through to switch over 4 million lines of code from one compiler to another. Early versions of Xcode couldn’t even compile Photoshop-it barfed at the size of the project. Apple had to work closely with Adobe just to get Photoshop to compile-finally. That was in September of 2006 and Adobe released a beta version of Photoshop CS3 just three months later.
In June of 2006 (just as Adobe was really trying to get Photoshop over to Xcode) Apple announced at the World Wide Developers Conference–the place where developers gather each year to find out what Apple’s roadmap for systems (hardware and software) are going, Adobe (as well as the rest of the developers) were told (I would call it a promised) that moving forward into the Leopard (10.5) OS, Apple would develop two 64-bit APIs: Carbon and Cocoa. Photoshop is developed using Carbon while Lightroom, a newer app, uses Cocoa.
Adobe, in 2006, based their CS4 development plans–even while they were trying to get CS3 to compile on Xcode–on Apple’s assurance that Carbon and Cocoa would BOTH be 64-bit first class citizens in Leopard. Even as late as Spring 2007 (about 1 year ago) Apple was working on and provided preliminary builds of Carbon 64-bit.
It was at the WWDC in June of 2007 (less than one year ago) Apple lowered the boom on Carbon 64-bit and dropped it from the Leopard release plans. So, with less than 6 months notice till the shipping of Leopard, Carbon 64-bit was dropped from Apple’s future plans. To say that the software developers at WWDC were distressed would be an extreme understatement.
Adobe, as others, had relied upon Apple to follow though with Apple’s plan (promise) to support Carbon 64-bit so that Adobe could do 64-bit versions of their CS products. Yet, Apple dropped that avenue that Adobe had been relying on.
Why? Well, in the long range plan Apple has for the platform, it can be argued that dropping support for legacy APIs like Carbon will be a good thing–long term. Short term though, it sucks. You don’t just take 4 million lines of code and rewrite a Carbon app to be a Cocoa app. Not at the drop of the hat. Some may say Adobe should have planned to migrate over to Cocoa sooner so as not to get caught in this trap. I agree except for the massive amount of work it would take would take development resources away from product development and result in less Photoshop advancement-and heck, even Apple, as of WWDC 2006, said it would not be needed right away.
So, if your main goal in life it to assign blame to others, I would argue that Apple must carry the majority of this load of blame. They essentially broke a promise in 2007 that they made in 2006 and totally screwed software developers and their plans. Some of the blame must be carried by Adobe for not moving away from Carbon sooner. On the other hand, having just spent a huge amount of effort moving from CodeWarrior to Xcode, I can see why Adobe wasn’t in a rush to make that massive jump from Carbon to Cocoa overnight.
The good news for all those people who have big honking MacPro Towers with 32gigs of ram is that there’s this little thing called Bootcamp that will allow you to install a 64-bit version of Vista and be able to take full advantage of the next 64-bit version of Photoshop right on your Mac hardware. Course, the irony isn’t lost on me…you _WILL_ be able to run the 64-bit version of Photoshop on your Mac…just not using a Macintosh OS. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Steve Jobs.
But to come back to Earth, there really is nobody to blame but circumstances…circumstances that lead Apple to drop Carbon 64-bit and circumstances that lead Adobe to believe they would have a 64-bit version of Carbon to use. The reason this whole thing came up recently is that the Lightroom 2.0 Beta announced and released last week will run in 64-bit on both Mac and Windows. So Adobe decided to talk about it now rather than later.
I will say though that knowing people from both companies, nobody at either company would have wished this upon Mac Photoshop users. Apple had their reasons for dropping Carbon 64-bit and Adobe had relied upon Apple that there would be a Carbon 64-bit. So, if anything is really to blame, it’s the fact that a lot of things in this industry are less than perfect and sometimes shyte happens. In the meantime, expect Adobe to make a massive effort (and it is a massive job) to move over to Cocoa for the future while still developing compelling features for Photoshop CS4 and expect Apple to do whatever they can to help that effort.
Silicon Valley is an odd place and makes for strange bedfellows. Yes, some days Apple and Adobe are competing on products while other days they work closely to help bootstrap each other on other issues. Some days they get together and play softball and drink beer, some days each companies’ CEO are “talking trash to the press” which the press usually likes to make sound like all out war, it isn’t. In the grand scheme of things, Adobe and Apple are like the Gemini Twins, neither would last long without the other–and they know it.