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Apple shines up 3D tools

Apple is trying to attract Windows developers and hold Mac programmers with a new Windows version of its QuickDraw 3D toolkit.

On the eve of Macworld Boston, Apple Computer announced today that it will provide a version of its QuickDraw 3D for Windows developers, a move the company hopes will attract Windows developers to Apple's technology and give Macintosh programmers a reason to sit tight.

The QuickDraw 3D development kit will be available by the end of September for Windows 95 and Windows NT. With QuickDraw 3D, developers can create 3D objects that can be manipulated in real time and build 3D environments. Once the Windows versions come out, developers will be able to use a single API to create such objects for both Windows and Mac without having to completely recreate the code.

By moving all the extensions and programming tools like the QuickDraw 3D toolkit to Windows, Apple hopes that developers will create a stockpile of applications that run on both Mac OS and Windows. This way, Apple users will continue to keep getting new applications, even though many Mac-only developers have been suffering financially in recent quarters. The move also may give Apple itself bragging rights in the Windows world for what many developers and analysts consider superior technology to Microsoft's equivalent multimedia technology.

Apple's decision to port QuickDraw 3D to Windows was not a surprise to long-time Apple watchers. QuickDraw 3D is believed to be the first of what will be a series of such announcements and was picked because it had the cleanest, easiest code to port.

"It's a perfectly logical continuation of what they've been doing since the launch of QuickTime for Windows," said Stephan Somogyi, senior editor of the industry newsletter Digital Media.

Some analysts believe that, more than just clout with developers, the move will bring Apple another thing it desperately needs: cash. "This could make Apple a lot of money," said Rob Enderle, senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group.

Some Windows multimedia developers, however, say that Apple had better make it really easy for them. "There's an awful lot of 3D being done on Windows, and Apple needs to come in with a standard to stay alive," said Jim Locker, creative director of Red Dot Productions in San Francisco. "We make [our clients' projects] on a Mac, but we deliver them on a PC."

Locker's corporate clients rarely use Macs, if at all. "It sure as hell better have a straight translation to the PC, or we'll probably skip using the Mac altogether," he said.

Macworld Boston, the top Apple trade show of the year, starts Wednesday. CEO Gil Amelio will discuss the new strategy behind the QuickDraw announcement at his keynote address Wednesday morning.