YellowBox 2 / Apple WO Rich Client Platform ?

Posted: September 3, 2008 in Apple, IT/Dev
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[Originally written 06-09-08] We should know in about one hour (WWDC2008 keynote from Steve Jobs) if Cocoa is coming fully on Windows (Yellow Box 2), and if Apple will also use it as a (multi-OS) Rich Client Platform for webservices based applications (in replacement or addition to WebObjects client side – actually HTML and proprietary tags).
About the first point, it is clear that the Yellow Box coming to Windows is still on the way (the procedural Core Foundation APIs are used by the Windows Safari), but we can expect the full Cocoa object framework (Foundation Kit, AppKit). Launched (then suspended in profit of the transitional Carbon APIs) 10 years ago (98), the Yellow Box (at that time based on OpenStep frameworks – Cocoa in substance) could be out in a new version (Yellow Box 2… as Objective-C 2 was introduced two years ago), based on Cocoa new APIs that have been added since 2000. Apple stated that Cocoa is the target environment for future mac applications (Adobe still uses it for its new image editing software, and Snow Leopard will remove most of the remaining Carbon code by Cocoa), and the iPhone SDK in someway promoted Cocoa through the Cocoa Touch framework.
In the Cocoa Programming book (2002), graphics APIs chapters, we learn that specific handlers (C functions pointers to proprietary external functions) are present (since 2001 so !) to allow using another graphical context than the MacOSX one if needed…

About web oriented entreprise applications, we know that Apple must state on the future (renewal) of WebObjects, and recent rumors of a WO staff cut could simply be aimed to hide a strong announcement, as Apple likes such surprises (secret Windows version of OSX that have been maintained for 7 years before launch). Besides Objective-C 2 that was out two years ago (added notably a Garbage Collector… to lure Java developers ?), we find a stronger clue : the Java bridge was recently deprecated, so WebObjects applications that used Java as their language won’t be supported anymore (won’t benefit from new APIs). But why risk to loose this market (and face angry developers) for no reason ? Or perhaps there is something fare more interesting coming instead.

Apple could leave the server side (WebServices : services development in Java on Eclipse, deployment on IBM servers, etc.), a domain where J2EE is richer and seems to have succeded connectors and archives specifications, etc.), and focus on the client side, a domain where needs have evolved (business desktop, access to OS specific functions, etc.), where the actual solution are multiples (RCP, Swing, GWT, Flex) but where none is really satisfying (limited, not robust and note secure javascript for GWT, not good locking Swing nor elegant APIs and visual editor, limited access to OS functions from Java, not so fexible RCP deployment with same limitations that Java/Swing, JVM/black box like execution in Flex – why not put a full application in a QuickTime moov conatiner, available since 14 years ?).

Apple would come at point with an Apple Rich Client Platform, based on the Yellow Box 2. This is to wonder if they had planned this rich client UI come back… at least the timing and conditions are perfect. The iphone in fact got its specific UI framework, the UIKit (light version of AppKit, aimed at managing UI constraints of handled devices)… why not an Apple RCP Kit ? It would be the response to Microsoft Silverlight that has been coming for some years (XAML and Windows basic .NET framework now required in the OS).

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