In preparation for its next-generation Rhapsody operating system, Apple Computer (AAPL) announced today that it will abandon its QuickDraw GX technology as the printing architecture of upcoming versions of the System 7 operating system.
The shift will go into effect with Apple's July System 7 update, code-named Tempo, as Apple standardizes on what it calls the "classic" print manager drivers. QuickDraw GX will remain a display-only graphics technology that translates data generated by an application into what users see on screen.
QuickDraw GX extended the Macintosh's original QuickDraw graphics display system in 1993 by adding a wealth of graphics, display, and printing capabilities. GX allows for excellent color control, typography, and support for multiple languages, but until now the difficulty of converting a shop to GX print drivers--including font conversions--has been enough to keep people away, according to Stephan Somogyi, principal of technology consultancy Gyroscope.
"Having to change all printer drivers was a huge barrier to the adoption of GX," acknowledged Apple product line manager Carla Ow. "Simply the hassle of finding a new driver was often enough to prevent people from upgrading."
The move away from QuickDraw GX won't affect most Mac users, as only about 15 applications use GX drivers as their sole printing option, according to Ow. But GX-only apps, such as SoftPress's UniQorn graphic design program, will need to be upgraded to support the "classic" print drivers.
"There might be a short gap of us not being able to operate on the absolutely most current system," said Jon Hornstein, U.S. marketing manager for the U.K.-based SoftPress. "But in the long term, it doesn't greatly affect us."
Despite forcing some developers to upgrade their GX-only apps, the loss of GX print drivers from the rest of GX's graphics and display features could encourage other developers to incorporate the technology into their applications, according to one analyst.
"This could be a way to get people who haven't used GX until now to start using it," said Somogyi.
Apple said it would deliver a separate software library instead of the current QuickDraw GX 1.1.5 architecture. The new library will be "shared" across all applications, meaning that all Macintosh apps will print with the same driver.
The standardization on the classic print drivers will also ease the transition to Apple's next-generation Rhapsody operating system, which will use Adobe's Display PostScript technology for screen display and printing when it is released to the public next year, Apple's Ow said.
Once the System 7.x unification is complete, the QuickDraw GX team will work with former Next Software engineers to integrate the GX graphics and display strengths into Rhapsody, Ow added.