Apple's woes would surely be compounded if the developer community gave up on the beleaguered company. But early returns indicate that although many are willing to dismiss Gil Amelio, they are not yet ready to abandon Apple.
"This is not bad news for Apple," said Larry Zulch, CEO of Dantz Development, which makes backup software for the Macintosh. "It's an opportunity."
"We intend to continue to support them by making great Mac products," said Macromedia spokeswoman Mary Leong. "Who's running the company is not as important as serving our customers."
Other developers pointed to Rhapsody and its handlers, not Gil Amelio or his replacement, as the key to Apple's future.
"The most important thing is not who gets Rhapsody out the door, but that it does get out the door and somebody fights the battle against Microsoft," said Timothy Wood, director of research at Omni Development. "It doesn't matter who the king is. If it's not Amelio, so be it, but [head of hardware development] Jon Rubinstein and Tevanian are still there."
Microsoft, the largest developer of software for the Macintosh, had only brief comments about the Amelio-Hancock resignations.
"We recognize that this is an unsettling time for Apple and we wish them the best," said a company spokeswoman. "We will continue to meet the needs of our Macintosh customers."
For Heidi Roizen, the former head of Apple developer relations, the issue is the company, not Amelio.
"For everyone in the Macintosh community, it makes us sad that this company has faced a lot of challenges, and this is another hurdle in a market. That's tough even for companies that are completely organized," said Roizen, who resigned in February after one year with the company . Roizen joined Apple soon after Amelio's hiring and was immediately handed a $20 million fund to seed developers.
Roizen gave credit to the outgoing executives for putting Rhapsody, Apple's next-generation operating system due in final release in mid-1998, into gear. But she didn't see their departure having negative effects in the crucial year ahead.
"They brought the whole deal together and set it on its course, but neither was currently directly responsible for development of Rhapsody. Avie Tevanian's there, and he's running that now."
Lawson English, cofounder of the Association of Independent Macintosh Engineers and Developers, wasn't surprised by today's announcement. He said he saw it coming ever since Roizen's resignation.
"Roizen was well-respected and everyone was looking to her to create good developer relations," English said. "The impression she left when she resigned was that things were getting out of hand."
When asked about the expanded role that Apple says Steve Jobs will take, English was not necessarily optimistic. He warned that Jobs's famous ability to sway opinion added to Amelio's overhasty decision-making: "Next is by all accounts the best development platform out there, period. On paper it looks wonderful, but it's not the end-all and be-all for current Mac customers. It wasn't a bad decision [to buy Next], it was a forced decision. Everything that happened with the operating system was because Amelio put himself in the position of making fast decisions."
In the end, the swiftness of Amelio's decisions mattered little compared to the bottom line.