Apple Computer (AAPL)
today lost its chief contact with the crucial development community, one which Apple must convince to stick with Macintosh software if its Rhapsody OS strategy is to succeed.
Heidi Roizen, vice president of developer relations, announced today she will resign from the company February 19 citing a need to spend more time with her children.
Roizen was herself a longtime member of the Mac development community as the head of T/Maker, one of the first companies to provide a word processor for the Mac. She joined Apple last February and was charged with keeping Mac developers on board while the company straightened out its operating system strategy. To make her job easier, she was handed $20 million to fund third-party development projects and promote the Apple platform.
"While I believe that Apple is now making tremendous strides toward a successful turnaround, I have found that the level of commitment necessary for me to do this job doesn't sit well with another commitment I have made: that of raising a young family," Roizen said in a letter to the Mac community.
Her departure is likely to be considered a serious loss for Apple, which was criticized for poor developer relations before Roizen's tenure.
"Of all the time we have worked with Apple, developer relations hit a low point before Heidi arrived. Now they've improved to the highest level they have ever been, especially in light of the trauma that Apple has endured," said Larry Zulch, president and chief executive of Dantz Development, which has been an Apple developer since 1984.
According to Zulch, Roizen did more than what was "humanly possible" to maintain contact with developers, personally answering hundreds of emails from the Mac community.
"Working directly with developers, supporting their efforts, and providing access to information were all things that she did and took it personally," Zulch said. "Everyone knew who Heidi was and you didn't have to say her last name to know."
Roizen's role at Apple was to build and maintain relationships between Apple and its developers worldwide, encouraging developers to commit to Apple platforms and helping their marketing efforts to succeed.
"In her tenure at Apple, Heidi greatly improved Apple's developer relations activities-?taking them from a nadir in 1996 to the much healthier, more open, and interactive relationship we have today," said Guerrino de Luca, Apple's recently named executive vice president of marketing, in a
De Luca will serve as her temporary replacement until a new developer relations executive is hired.
Zulch, for one, is confident that De Luca will maintain the program Roizen created. "The most encouraging news is De Luca. We have someone who has real understanding of developer relations," he said. "If not for De Luca, we
would be much less calm about Apple developer relations. I've known him longer than I have known Heidi, and he does understand what needs to be done."
What mostly needs to be done now is to persuade Mac developers in great numbers to rewrite their applications for the Rhapsody OS under development. The new operating system will run older Mac software but will need new applications to take advantage of its new features, just like with the Windows 95 upgrade.
Rhapsody isn't due for general release until mid-1998, but developers need to be laying their plans now if they are to have software ready for the ship date. The head of developer relations is the one who will help them make up their minds and then provide them the information on how to do it.
Roizen was a member of the board of directors of the Software Publishers Association from 1987 to 1994, and served as its president from 1988 to 1990. In 1996, she was re-elected to the Association's board and is still a member.