Sal Soghoian and upcoming changes

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(Lenny Eiger) #1

I read elsewhere that Sal Soghoian was let go at Apple. Apparently, they eliminated his position. I didn’t know him personally, but many have posted about what a great proponent he was of all things AppleScript, and much more. I hope its appropriate to post this here.

I wonder how you all feel about this? Does this portend a coming deprecation of AppleScript? If that’s so is all automation at risk, and for that matter, all power computing on Apple platforms?

Will we all have to learn Linux, or g_d forbid, Mickeysoft? I know we’re all stakeholders see, just thought I’d get a sense of it from you folks. I’m 64, have 30+ years on the Mac side and don’t know where to start if the worst case scenarios are remotely real - or real in 3-5 years, etc. I’m a little rattled…

TIA


(Mark Alldritt) #2

I’ve received a number of emails from concerned customers asking pretty much the same question: what does Apple’s letting go of Sal mean? In short, nothing at all in the near term.

Sal is a great guy and has fought the good fight for AppleScript and user automation within Apple for a long time. I think we all have to recognize his achievements, especially back when the macOS first appeared and the NeXT folks were keen to kill off AppleScript.

See Shane’s blog post for more detail and history: http://latenightsw.com/sal-soghoian-has-left-the-building/

However, despite Sal’s efforts, AppleScript has been in a state of bénigne neglect for years, neither being allowed to die nor improve. There were no significant changes in macOS Sierra. Other automation technologies have been introduced over the years (Automator and later JavaScript for Automation) which were subsequently allowed to languish. But none of these things have been removed as so many other Apple technologies have been since the release of the macOS. The serve a real need and I think Apple knows this.

Remember that the macOS is Unix. There are enumerable scripting systems available (e.g. Python, Ruby, Perl, the list goes on and on). Apple’s shiny new Swift programming language has the potential to be a first rate scripting language. Even if AppleScript were to go away, there are other technologies which can be used and which are arguably better.

There are open questions about Apple’s intentions for user automation. We’ll have to wait and see how it all develops. But ripping out AppleScript would be a massively disruptive change to the macOS. Something would have to take its place. The current state of affairs is hardly good and whatever happens may, in the end, be an improvement.

I think those that point to Sal’s removal from Apple as yet more evidence of an existential crisis for the macOS and the Mac are being hyperbolic. The Mac certainly faces challenges and Apple’s apparent lack of interest in the true “Pro” market (hardware and software) is concerning. In its current form, the iOS cannot do what the macOS can and Apple has shown no signs of fixing the iOS’s underlying limitations.

Apple sells hardware. In the end, they will do what they think will sell more Mac hardware. If they don’t address the real needs of pro users, including providing good user automation, then that new Microsoft Surface Studio is looking really nice. When enough people start looking elsewhere for their $4K+ systems, Apple will(may) notice.


(Bret Perry) #3

But I’d really miss the Ladybug! Been admiring her daily since v1.

Would SD morf to another language?

Do Python or Pearl or even Ruby read the same “Dictionaries” to access all of InDesign’s, Finder’s and other apps AS objects and properties, have the same Apple Events support and talk among apps to the extent that AS does?

I’ve read that there are libraries/bindings for them to access OSA but they at best incomplete (or dead)?


(Ray Robertson) #4

Mark, this is the wisest thing I have read on the topic. I hope you will consider posting something similar to your blog. In a world of instant reaction, the initial responses are seldom worthy of consideration, especially when so much speculation is involved.


(Phil Stokes) #5

Your view is certainly more comforting, but it doesn’t seem to be based on any greater amount of empirical evidence than the “hyperbolic” view, arguably less so.

Let’s just agree to some facts:

'1. It wasn’t just Sal that was let go; the Automation team has been disbanded they scrapped the position of product manager for Automation.
'2. Apple don’t just sell hardware anymore; they sell a lot of services, and their strategy over the last 4 years at least has been to cross-sell their products and services and get consumer buy-in (i.e., the ‘build an ecosystem’, argument**).
'3. For a “hardware” company, there’s been a dearth of new Mac hardware offered by Apple in the last 3 years.

Now lets move on to more contentious points:

'4. Most of Apple’s hardware sales are phones, but since the mac’s $5bn/pa sales would be an outstanding success for any other company, the lack of development (see #3 above) of the mac platform for a cash-rich “hardware” company like Apple can only be due to one of two things:
i. incompetent management
ii. lack of interest in the platform.

All the evidence suggests Tim Cook is a pretty good manager, so that’s one strike against point i., and Fact #3 above is one in favour of point ii.

'5. What can we make of #2? If Apple are all into the “ecosystem”, then why is one part of the ecosystem apparently being left to rot (cf #3)? The only rationale for that would be i. again, incompetence or ii. it’s not seen as a significant contributor to the ecosystem. Supporting evidence: you can’t plug your latest flagship iPhone 7 into your latest (yet to be released) flagship MacBook Pro. What does that tell you about ‘ecosystem’?

'6. What can we make of #3? I don’t buy the argument that Apple are waiting on Intel or for some breakthrough technology to arrive. I don’t buy it because none of that would have stopped them from making more useful, incremental upgrades to things like the Mac Pro, Mac Mini or even iMac. Why did the MBP not get a 34GB RAM option this year? Oh, its the boards, oh its the heat transfer, oh its…an excuse. For a company in Apple’s position, if they’d have wanted to make it happen, they could have and would have made it happen.

1 through to 6 lead me to the conclusion that Apple is deliberately under-investing time and resources in the mac platform - and I’ll repeat, that’s a $5bn/pa revenue stream - and I can’t see any other reasons for that other than those given in 4.i and 4.ii. I don’t believe 4.i and so that only leaves me with the “hyperbolic” conclusion of 4.ii. Further supporting evidence: Tim Cook’s famous quote that he doesn’t understand why anyone would need anything more powerful than an iPad Pro.

It may well be less comforting, but I think it’s at least as well-supported as any alternative theory I’ve heard in recent days.

And yeah, those Surface Studios look real nice. The sort of thing you’d have expected Apple to make once upon a time.

** which hypothesizes that the more interdependent you can make your products, the harder you make it for your competitors to steal your customers – my real-world experience in commerce suggests this argument is only partially true, and vastly over-rated when applied to expensive home appliance purchases where people are generally more willing to make sacrifices of convenience in order to benefit from cost savings or performance or other enhancements, but that’s an aside.


(Mark Alldritt) #6

I, in fact, agree with your arguments. Apple’s actions over the last several years do suggest that the Mac, as a platform, has lost favour. It does seem like Apple wants to dumb the Mac down and/or push people to iOS. I just don’t agree that Sal’s removal adds to the weight of evidence. I believe Sal was let go for other reasons (just me speculating).

AppleScript (and Automator and JavaScript for Automation) have been in a terrible state for years. We have no way of knowing what went on within Apple and how frustrating it must have been for Sal, but the outcome is that AppleScript has not progressed very much for a long time.


(Ed Stockly) #7

Right now they’re “courageous” things, like no more headphones. I hope they don’t get too courageous with macs in general and appleScript in particular.

Discretion is the better part of valor.

I wish Apple would spin off Mac OS and Mac hardware to an independent subsidiary dedicated to supplying macs and mac OS., and would focus on OS development; software (Safari; iWork; etc.) and high end macs and laptops, while licensing lower end hardware to other manufacturers.

That won’t happen because what history has taught us it that while Apple thinks it is a hardware company, the only reason people pay the premium for Apple hardware is to get Apple software (mainly the OS).


(Mark Alldritt) #8

Probably not. If AppleScript were to be retired, then Script Debugger would also. AppleScript is unique in many ways and Script Debugger is highly tuned to AppleScript’s needs.

If there is a business in supporting whatever follows, I’ll look at it. But Script Debugger isn’t making anybody rich and dev tools is always a tough market so I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing.

Yes, there are AppleEvent bridges for Ruby and Python (look into appscript). Various people are developing bridges for Apple’s Swift programming language.


(Shane Stanley) #9

This is possibly true, but as far as I can see the only evidence for it is that one blog said it happened, without any hint of a source – no quoting “little birdies” or inside sources, or any of the other euphemisms. Have you (or anyone else here) seen more?

Without any evidence, I don’t think it counts as a “fact” at this stage.


(Phil Stokes) #10

Ye gads, now I’ll have to trawl through all the **** I’ve been reading the last few days to see where I picked that up. I was fairly certain of it, but possibly Chinese whispers.

Looks like it was stated here. Even if untrue, I still think the more significant point is not that Sal was let go, but that his position has been eliminated. A team without a permanent manager indicates no long term plan for that team.


(Shane Stanley) #11

Undoubtedly. I’m just trying to keep tabs on what is known and what is conjecture.

I’m not sure it was ever a team in that sense – product manager is more a marketing/evangelist position.


(Phil Stokes) #12

Which they’ve now decided doesn’t include Airport and Time Capsule’s anymore (that’s not long after getting out of the external display business when they killed the Thunderbolt display) . There’s some real thinning of the trees going on over there at Cupertino. They’re killing all the peripheries, and given we’ve seen no new MacPro, Mac Mini or iMac models …I know we’re way off-topic for AppleScript per se, and yeah, you can award me the forum tin-foil hat if you like, but I’ll honestly be surprised if the mac exists in five years time.


(Ray Robertson) #13

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. today, so I’m just reflecting and saying thanks:

http://www.automatedworkflows.com/2016/11/24/sal-soghoian-in-appreciation/


#14

Ray,

Thanks for the post. I hear the name a lot over time but I never knew much about him beyond the book he and Bill Cheeseman wrote called AppleScript 1-2-3. He was always a mythical person to me and it’s nice to have some details.

Shane and Mark,

It was sort of like that for me with Shane. He was like mythical fountain of knowledge and then one I joined the group and actually corresponded with him directly. I would like to express my thanks to Shane for being so willing to share and teach. Nearly every time I found something “really” useful about Applescript on the internet it seemed to have his name on it. Sometime when I searched for something on Applescript and I would get too many hits I would enter Shane Stanley and the applescript problem then I could easily find the perfect answer. Shane saved me many times when it came to AppleScript long before I joined the Script Debugger group. There is a huge amount of useful info out on the internet with his name on it.

And of course there is Mark. I remember the perpetual death sentence AppleScript had on it for so long. But Mark stuck with Script Debugger. Mark’s debugger was the only serious development tool for AppleScript and he always held up the highest standards for ScriptDebugger. I would like express my thanks to Mark as well. As I have said in the past Script Debugger literally changed my career, which then changed my life very much for the better.

Bill


(Jim Rea) #15

I agree with Ray, Mark’s post is the wisest I have read on this topic. For what it’s worth, I was at the MacTech conference last week and had a 2 hour discussion with Sal over lunch on Friday. He made it clear he had no idea what direction Apple was going to take in regard to automation – whenever asked he simply said “ask Apple”. I will say he seemed to be in a genuinely good mood – and he had some great SJ stories :slight_smile:


#16

Apple is doing housecleaning throughout the business (dumping its rambling Apple Car plans, amongst others) as it tries to refocus on building markets, not fripperies. Apple’s been cruising for some time now with no clear strategy on where to go next, and squandering much of the inertia it had previously built up, so hopefully (for them) this is a sign that the lessons taught to it by Steve Jobs 2.0 are once again back in play, before they sleepwalk into replicating the mistakes of late 80s and early 90s Apple.

In other words, Sal’s sacking is not personal, just business, and a reflection on his professional performance as a Product Manager who failed to sell any new product to any new customers, not on the man himself. As I’ve said elsewhere: Lovely bloke, heart in the right place, couldn’t manage a pissup in a brewery.

Next month, when Sal’s licked his wounds and [hopefully] thinking on how to move forward, I’m going to contact him proposing a targeted proactive plan that gives us, the users, the best chance of nudging Automation in the direction that will serve all our interests—your, mine, Apple’s, and the other 98% of computing users (from your grannie to the Swiftiest developer) who after 20 years are still so locked out of all this power and potential that they don’t even realize what exists, never mind what it could do for them too.

I’ve already put forth a plan to the AppleScript community on what we can do to get Apple’s attention (protip: change.org whining won’t cut it; Apple’s long since done all that math). Some folks agree it is worth pursuing. Jean-Christophe Hellary, who was first to post his own Radar tickets to OpenRadar.appspot.com and let us know he’d done it and where to find them (http://lists.apple.com/archives/applescript-users/2016/Nov/msg00182.html), so everyone else can easily cut-n-paste submit them too. I might’ve applied a slight arm twist, but he’s clearly genuine in his own belief that it’s the best hope we’ve got. So I’ve told him to carry, and I’ll stay out of his way so he can give it his best crack. And I encourage anyone who think his pitch could be further improved on offer him constructive criticisms and suggestions on how to do that (after first duping his tickets, of course!). Everyone has to start learning somewhere (look at how thoroughly I cratered appscript while trying to do that), and Jean-Christophe isn’t hampered by polarizing opions as I am, so he and others like him are the best hope for that.

Otherwise, I am not interested in arguing politics or religion, or who’s in it for herself or whose ego feels unhappy or threatened by change I propose. Cos change is coming regardless—Apple is already on it—and the only two options for everyone else are either get to the front and try help to nudge that jjuggernaut in positive direction, or hide in the back with her fond memories and dying platform, where she can keep on telling herself it’s going to be okay…at least until that ax finally drops.

And that’s me said my bit on that part.

I’ll make a separate post later, cos folk are talking about historical record of AppleScript ‘alternatives’ (appscript, SB, JXA, et al) and why they failed so miserably to build huge new Automation markets, cos as one of the culprits I’m best placed to provide details and corrections on that. Plus a bit on the work I’ve already done and am continuing to do to make up for that.

The only other two things I would say are:

  1. Don’t use childish terms like “Mickeysoft”, because it makes you sound petty and naive, and no grownup decision maker is going to pay attention to that. The name is “Microsoft”. My main client has already happily switched its entire graphics shop onto a virtualized Windows+Adobe setup; it works perfectly well and is an increasingly attractive professional alternative to Apple’s increasingly prosumer platform. (And will become moreso as consumer markets move from Windows to Android, allowing MS to refocus purely on professional users.)

  2. Let me embarrass Mark in public by asking if he’s thought to trademark “Swift Debugger” yet? Cos I’m already hearing people say they’re really like a ‘script’ editor for Apple’s next up-n-comer (bag of knackers as a decent, accessible language it might be). Gotta be fresh market openings in that—especially if we can give Apple the nudge that’ll let Mark make SD’s already awesome Automation features as shoe-in to #SwiftLang as well! :wink:


(Mark Alldritt) #17

The first indication of what a post-Sal automation landscape at Apple looks like:


(Jean Christophe Helary) #18

Exactly as has said in other places: Apple’s business is now centered on iOS. Fascinating. In all likeliness prosumers will slowly move to iPad Pro (or future instances of it) and only developers will stay on Macs, where they don’t really need Applescript, or Automator etc.


(Shane Stanley) #19

And yet in the latest upgrade to Xcode they’ve restored and in some cases expanded AppleScript support.

FWIW, I think the biggest mistake you can make if you want to be an Apple pundit is to treat the company as if it’s a single entity. It was once described to me as a collection of warring fiefdoms, and I suspect that’s as much the case as ever.


(Jean Christophe Helary) #20

Do you have details for Xcode expanded AS support ?
And, I don’t want to be a pundit about anything :slight_smile: I just want to get my job done :slight_smile: