Rant 2006-10-19: MSN Messenger for Mac, Microsoft Doesn’t Get It

Notes before reading:
*For an explanation on how this rant is organized, please: read this.
*This rant is posted in the comment section of this blog's post.
-Sorry for my disappearing act: I'm doing a PhD over at the University of Manchester, so my leisure time has decreased exponentially during these last few months. I may change the publishing period of these rants to a monthly thing, instead of a week, sorry about that.
-Anyway, the topic of the blog was of the launch of the new version of MSN Messenger for the Mac (6.0.1) and the absence (still) of A/V support for PC MSN users.
-My rant is mainly as a response to one pro-Microsoft comment that was from Johnathan Wise saying:

No dude, you don’t get it. Microsoft even published a blog post on this release to explain things to people like you. In order to add new features, such as A/V, Microsoft had to have a stable code base to work with. They didn’t originally write the software in XCode, so make a universal binary was nearly impossible. It would be stupid for them to add new features on that old, non-compatible code base, so the first priority was to move to XCode and release a Universal Binary. This gives them a compatible, future-friendly code base off of which they can begin to add new features.

I’m not saying Microsoft has properly prioritized Messenger for Mac. I too have been frustrated by the lack of features. But they are “getting it” and they are moving in the right direction. And Apple shares some fault for not communicating in advance their plan to go “Universal.” They recommended using XCode, but didn’t tell anyone why, and a massive software house like Microsoft isn’t going to just switch development environments without good reason.

Now they have good reason, Apple’s strategy is clear, and they can begin making progress. Ya, they’ve been slow, but now that they’re doing the right thing, cut them some slack!

-You can find the Microsoft blog post he mentioned here.
-A/V means Audio/Visual. Y'know: using the webcam and microphone in your computer to see/talk to another person by MSN. You can't do that with a Mac to a PC user through the MSN protocol, you have to use something else, like Skype, SightSpeed, etc.
-XCode is the official (and probably only) development environment to create Mac applications.
-Universal Binaries are applications that can run natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs. It's a source of frustration for most users that have Intel-based Macs because there are many applications right now that aren't Universal, so they don't run as fast as they do on a PowerPC-based Mac, including Office, Adobe Photoshop, and, until a month ago, MSN Messenger for Mac.

Actually, Steve Jobs in the 2005 WWDC, made it very clear why should Apple Developers should use XCode 2.1 (or later): to make Universal Binaries of the programs. Apple did this over half a year before the Intel Macs were shipped and it also made some Intel Macs available for developers to test on before hand. Even the General Manager of Macintosh Business Unit of Microsft, Roz Ho, made a little speech in which, and I quote “We’re releasing a new version of MSN Messenger for Mac in the next few months” followed by stating that they are working with Apple to create Universal Binaries of Office with XCode. So, they had known about this well before. Actually, Adobe did exactly that and has now put up a shipping date (Spring 2007) for Photosho CS3 which would be Intel-compatible for Macs.

So you see, there IS a good reason for them to switch development environments, Apple gave them all the tools and support for such (as it did for every other developer), and still they haven’t delivered; not completely anyway. They DID release a new version of MSN Messenger but, come on, the new features we’re really poor: it’s more of a 5.2 than a 6.0.1 in my opinion. This isn’t news, really: the browser-based messenger can’t run on a Mac because of Microsoft’s choice; they have dropped Virtual PC development; and didn’t they dropped support for Messenger for the Mac a while ago? And now they’re back, who knows what’s going on in there?

Frankly, stick with third party applications for MSN chatting and use something else to conference with. I use SightSpeed, someone else mentioned Skype, they get the job done; and right now Microsoft it’s not doing that, whatever the reason (they have to launch Vista, make Office Intel compatible, etc.), this is showing that Mac users aren’t a priority for Microsoft, and well, duh! I wouldn’t care if iTunes crashed on a Windows PC, and, although Apple is doing a somewhat decent job on that point, it’s not a priority for them either.

You want to use a Mac? Research what’s out there, and get something that works in the third party area; don’t sit around and expect Microsoft to run to your rescue.

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