Tag Archives: mac

Apple no longer loves Mac developers

At least, that’s the impression you get from its latest move: dropping Mac applications from its Apple Design Awards, presented during the its Worldwide Developers Conference. In 2009 there was an OSX developer Showcase alongside the iPhone Developer Showcase. This year? Well, iPad is here, and three’s a crowd, one had to go.

While the Apple Design Awards are a tiny insignificant detail in the grand scheme of things, this is still a clear pointer for anyone who had not yet noticed, that Apple is keen to focus on its locked-down devices ahead of its computers. It’s better business, because a mobile device yields multiple revenue streams: money from the device sale, money from the mobile contract, money from app sales via the only permitted route, the App Store. There is also an argument that it is better for the user, since a locked-down device is more secure and less likely to be break, though you have to set that against loss of freedom, and the impact of a single-supplier market on price and competition. It also fits with bigger industry trends, where devices are mobile and data is in the cloud, that are shaping the computing landscape.

Silverlight 4 vs Silverlight 3: a little bit faster?

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie spoke of “twice as fast performance” in the newly-released Silverlight 4, thanks to a new just-in-time compiler.

Performance is a hard thing to nail down. Maybe he meant that compilation is twice as fast? I’m not sure; but I tried a couple of quick tests.

First, I looked at my Primes test. Version 3 running in Windows Vista took around 0.40 seconds (the exact figure varies on each run, thanks to background processes or other factors). I then upgraded to version 4.0. No significant difference, on average over several runs. I used Vista because I’d already upgraded my Windows 7 install.

Next I tried Bubblemark. I maxed it out at 128 bubbles. On Vista with Silverlight 3 I got about 240 fps; on the same machine with Silverlight 4 about 260fps; about 8%.

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Next I tried on an Apple Mac. My Mac Mini is less powerful, though not that bad, an Intel 1.83 Ghz Core Duo. On the Prime test I got 0.54 secs before, and 0.50 secs after the upgrade to 4.0, about 7.5% improvement. On Bubblemark, it was only 24 fps before and after.

I guess the vast difference in graphics performance is also interesting. It is not just Mac vs Windows; the Nvidia GeForce 6800 on the PC is more powerful than whatever is in the Mac Mini.

If anyone can tell me in what respect version 4.0 is twice as fast, I’d be grateful.

Update: prompted by the comment from David Heffernan below, I also tried the Encog Silverlight Benchmark. I used an older core duo laptop, since I am running out of machines to upgrade. I ran the test twice before upgrading, and twice after. Lower is better:

Silverlight 3.0: 22.0

Silverlight 4.0: 12.7

That’s about 42% better, where “twice as fast” would be 50% better, much closer to Guthrie’s claim. I guess it depends what you measure.

Google Chrome usage growing fast; Apple ahead on mobile web

Looking at my browser stats for February one thing stands out: Google Chrome. The top five browsers are these:

  1. Internet Explorer 40.5%
  2. Firefox 34.1%
  3. Chrome 10.5%
  4. Safari 4.3%
  5. Opera 2.9%

Chrome usage has more than doubled in six months, on this site.

I don’t pretend this is representative of the web as a whole, though I suspect it is a good leading indicator because of the relatively technical readership. Note that although I post a lot about Microsoft, IE usage here is below that on the web as a whole. Here are the figures from NetMarketShare for February:

  1. Internet Explorer 61.58%
  2. Firefox 24.23%
  3. Chrome 5.61%
  4. Safari 4.45%
  5. Opera 2.35%

and from  statcounter:

  1. Internet Explorer 54.81%
  2. Firefox 31.29%
  3. Chrome 6.88%
  4. Safari 4.16%
  5. Opera 1.94%

There are sizeable variations (so distrust both), but similar trends: gradual decline for IE, Firefox growing slightly, Chrome growing dramatically. Safari I suspect tracks Mac usage closely, a little below because some Mac users use Firefox. Mobile is interesting too, here’s StatCounter:

  1. Opera 24.26
  2. iPhone 22.5
  3. Nokia 16.8
  4. Blackberry 11.29
  5. Android 6.27
  6. iTouch 10.87

Note that iPhone/iTouch would be top if combined. Note also the complete absence of IE: either Windows Mobile users don’t browse the web, or they use Opera to do so.

I’m most interested in how Chrome usage is gathering pace. There are implications for web applications, since Chrome has an exceptionally fast JavaScript engine. Firefox is fast too, but on my latest quick Sunspider test, Firefox 3.6 scored 998.2ms vs Chrome 4.0’s 588.4ms (lower is better). IE 8.0 is miserably slow on this of course; just for the record, 5075.2ms.

Why are people switching to Chrome? I’d suggest the following. First, it is quick and easy to install, and installs into the user’s home directory on Windows so does not require local administrative rights. Second, it starts in a blink, contributing to a positive impression. Third, Google is now promoting it vigorously – I frequently see it advertised. Finally, users just like it; it works as advertised, and generally does so quickly.

Adobe Flash getting faster on the Mac

According to Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch:

Flash Player on Windows has historically been faster than the Mac, and it is for the most part the same code running in Flash for each operating system. We have and continue to invest significant effort to make Mac OS optimizations to close this gap, and Apple has been helpful in working with us on this. Vector graphics rendering in Flash Player 10 now runs almost exactly the same in terms of CPU usage across Mac and Windows, which is due to this work. In Flash Player 10.1 we are moving to CoreAnimation, which will further reduce CPU usage and we believe will get us to the point where Mac will be faster than Windows for graphics rendering.

Video rendering is an area we are focusing more attention on — for example, today a 480p video on a 1.8 Ghz Mac Mini in Safari uses about 34% of CPU on Mac versus 16% on Windows (running in BootCamp on same hardware). With Flash Player 10.1, we are optimizing video rendering further on the Mac and expect to reduce CPU usage by half, bringing Mac and Windows closer to parity for video.

Also, there are variations depending on the browser as well as the OS — for example, on Windows, IE8 is able to run Flash about 20% faster than Firefox.

Many of us are not aware of these kinds of differences, because we live in one browser on one operating system, but the non-uniform performance of Flash helps to explain divergent opinions of its merits.

I would be interested to see a similar comparison for Linux, which I suspect would show significantly worse performance than on Windows or Mac.