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7. The Road Ahead II

Unique Applications for Artists and Musicians

We’ve made progress in our 5-year journey to bring U&I Software products to Apple’s Cocoa platform. Creative ToolboX (CTX) recreations of our most popular programs MetaSynth and ArtMatic (Designer+Voyager) have been released. All of them have had multiple free upgrades and are now humming along with each at version 1.1. ArtMatic CTX 1.2 is now in development with Xx CTX 1.0 to followup and bring MIDI conversion to MetaSynth CTX. The plan is to remake the ArtMatic integrated Photo Editor + Video editor vQuartz. We have revitalized the user communities, which are growing for both product lines, and created new learning materials (videos, eLearning, interviews, online docs, etc) for them. Even MetaSynth is getting the first new manual overhaul in a decade or more. The business has been brought into the 21st Century with new backend systems, simplified modern services, improved support and issue reporting, and rolled out contemporary branding. We are also restoring old partnerships and grow new ones.

I can clearly remember the moment 2.5 years ago Eric asked me to step in, restore U&I Software, and help make all of this a reality. After years of long days and many nights with little sleep, and rollercoasters of trials and tribulations to get here, I now have to pinch myself that we have arrived. There is a lot of work still to be done in the coming years, but the foundation of U&I Software 2.0 is in place.

Now, we are set to address the biggest challenges U&I Software faces: Piracy and Apple bugs. The first almost meant the end of U&I Software. With a piracy rate of 90% for MetaSynth 6.0 it never stood a chance of recovering costs, let alone helping to fund the remake for Cocoa. With CTX 1.x we need to navigate that challenge and hit the right balance this time. The company has always been fiercely independent not wanting to repeat what happened to Bryce – where third-party investors called the shots and eventually decided to stop development but not return the rights – this is why folks who buy the products and donate to their development are not just simply “users” but a community. One we belong to ourselves.

On the Apple front, it’s really challenging. As a customer I can get a support call back in minutes, as a developer I can pay $50 for code level support ticket and not hear back form them in months, only to receive a form letter message that ignores the details laid out in the bug. I’ve gotten account managers involved who say they understand and will personally see this gets resolved then fall silent never to be heard from again. The developer website is a mess with poor navigation. Just today I logged in and found it was changed with no clear way to get to any of our cases!

Before you say it, yes we did start a third party Windows port of the Application Framework for all the products. A fair % of our resources went into that but did not result in something we could move forward with at the time. Pause. As 2021 progresses, I’ll continue to explore funding options which meet our expectations of independence, partnership, and financial viability. It will be a test of how much the community wants to support it. Moving to a GPU wild wild west will bring it’s own challenges.

Apple. I have a new request open and await a 1-2 day response promised. If we can get them to fix the C++ compiler bug in xCode10 that slows our applications by a factor of 5x’s, then we can move forward with native ARM builds (tho’ the Intel ones are faster on ARM than actual Intel processors already!), and all the code work needed to get into the Apple Store – we think about a month of effort per application for each goal.

Eric has worked hard to ensure not only future compatibilities but also legacy MacOS X support for the CTX products. This is getting harder and harder to do as Apple moves on from it’s past to its future as a purely core Cocoa OS + Apple ARM processor business and project Catalyst to merge the Mac into their core iDevice product lines is completed. Our survey’s show tho’ while outdated MacOS users made up the majority of U&I customers when I started running the business, this is rapidly changing as the ARM processor revolutionizes laptop and desktop computing in simular ways Intel, and PowerPC processors did decades before. Such transitions are not easy for developers and customers. My first Mac was a SE30, so I’ve lived through this a few times.

Thank you for supporting us through all these transitions by donating to the applications. Your love of Eric’s creations is the reason they still exist. Please take a moment in the user groups to thank the moderators, they are customers just like you and are volunteering their time to keep those communities enriched. Many of them are also the users who have stepped up to create training materials, share tips and tricks files with others, give advice on the programs, provide demonstrations, and most of all spend many many hours testing the products. Even most of Eric and I’s time is unpaid. We do it because we love the programs.

All the best,
Kevin

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