I’m halfway through day two at REAL World 2004. Last night we saw some great stuff at the keynote last night. I mentioned it briefly in my last entry, but now that I’ve had some time to mull it over and take it all in, it’s time to make some comments of my own, in addition to a recap of some of the specifics.
The first thing Geoff did last night was talk about the company’s vision and history. Their vision is more ambitious than I imagined, and it’s very encouraging. In a SteveNote grid, Geoff outlined the four areas where they want to see REALbasic succeed. Desktop and server apps occupied the first quadrant, perhaps predictably. The second quadrant was web apps, followed by handhelds/cell phones and plug-ins for other apps, respectively filling quadrants three and four. We didn’t see or hear anything about quadrants three or four last night, but the sutff Geoff showed in us the first two quadrants was enough to get all of us pretty fired up. More on that in a moment.
He also talked about the history of the company, which is a really interesting story. In 1998, Geoff found a link to a shareware program called CrossBasic. The link was on Macintouch. He looked at the program, which compiled Mac apps and Java apps. He was impressed with the app and called the author, who was doing it as sort of a nights and weekends project. Geoff asked him if he’d like to work on it full-time, and REAL Software was born. Later that year they shipped REALbasic 1.0, which produced only Mac apps. The Java support in CrossBasic was spotty at best, so it was removed. When it came time to crank out RB 2, it was apparent that compiling to Windows was more important than making Java apps. Version 3 was the first to run natively on Mac OS X. And in version 5, they made an IDE that runs natively on Windows. In the newest release, 5.5, it also compiles for Linux and creates GUI-less console apps.
Which brings us to today. Geoff then gave us a sneak peek at REALbasic 6. The interface has been totally redesigned, with a single-window “browser” type model. At first glance, I despised the new interface, but about fifteen seconds into Geoff’s demo, I realized the genius of it and fell in love. It’s not just flash and polish, it’s a fundamental improvement to the way you interact with the application. It’s fantastic. And it’s written in REALbasic. Wrap your head around that. REALbasic 6 is written in REALbasic.
The big news, to me at least, came second. There’s no official name yet, but they’re calling it Swordfish. It uses REALbasic language and syntax, but it compiles web applications. Stop and fully take that in: it compiled web applications. This is huge and major and big and many other superlatives. I spend so much time rewriting perfectly good RB apps in PHP because people want them on the web. Soon I won’t have to. Which is good, because as capable as PHP is, it’s tedious to write. REALbasic has the best autocomplete system out there, which makes it dead simple to write correct code. With PHP, even with the excellent syntax-coloring provided by SubEthaEdit, I feel like I’m always guessing. Plus I have to create everything by hand, as opposed to designing visually in REALbasic. But Swordfish looks like the ticket. In fact, in a few minutes, I’m going to a discussion session on it.
Tonight is the big Texas BBQ feast and the REALbasic design awards. I might sneak out early and spend some more time writing code.