OK, I will stop geeking out soon, promise

But before I do – this post from Gus Mueller reports on new stuff in the .Mac software development kit 2.0, due any day now. Anyone’s who’s used Coding Monkey’s SubEthaEdit in anger will appreciate just what a significant development this is: if you haven’t, let me briefly explain:

SubEthaEdit is a text editor. That’s all it does. But it lets several people type in the document at the same time, and each person sees everyone else’s changes, in real time. It was designed for pair programming tasks, but it’s found favour for taking conference notes collaboratively, and on the couple of occasions I’ve used it for writing scripts it’s been unbelievably cool. What’s clever isn’t so much the concept – other similar systems do exist, I’m told – as the simplicity. SubEthaEdit automatically discovers other copies of itself over the network, and allowing other users access to your document is as easy as dragging their icon from a list.

It sounds like the .Mac SDK will allow similar sorts of operations over the net. Better, as Mueller points out, it should take a problem that’s been theoretically possible – but plain hard – and make it relatively straightforward. This is a big deal, because now the problem becomes: what do we do with this stuff?

I’m starting to think that Apple’s real risk in the Intel transition is nothing to do with the processors at all. It’s long been the case that once you’ve got over the joy of unpacking your glorious new Mac and actually started it up, it’s… well… it’s exactly the same as your crufty old Mac. Desktop, laptop, whatever – all Macs are basically identical, which is one heck of an achievement. If Intel-based Macs are discernibly different, then frankly Apple will have failed and it’s game over. Many Mac users won’t even know if they’re on PPC or Intel, and nor should they have to.

No, the risk is that we, Mac users, will be so distracted by the coming Third Age of Mac-Kind that we forget what the Mac is supposed to be about. Which is: making previously-impossible stuff easy. Stuff like typesetting pages, image manipulation, video editing, cataloguing, and real-time collaborative document editing.

When we ask ‘what’s next?’, we should not – must not – be referring to Intel CPUs.

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