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Is Apple a "serious" Lisp vendor?
- To: email@example.com
- Subject: Is Apple a "serious" Lisp vendor?
- From: strom@ACM.ORG (stephen strom)
- Date: Sun, 17 Apr 1994 08:48:31 -0600
A recent column in AI Expert ("Lisp for Lunch", by H.P. Newquist, May 1994)
claimed that the only remaining "serious" Lisp vendors in the U.S. are
small companies. I queried the author, and indeed he does not consider
Apple to be a "serious" Lisp vendor. It is sometimes difficult to tell the
editorial content from the advertising in this magazine (one of the reasons
I am allowing my subscription to lapse), and this particular column seemed
to be little more than an ad for Franz's Allegro Common Lisp. Also, AI
Expert and its sister publications like the (defunct) Computer Language and
Dr. Dobbs Journal have always been rather dismissive of the Macintosh. (And
the latter of these two other magazines, I believe, also ran an article
which accused Apple of a "bait and switch" policy in regard to MCL -- sell
people Lisp, then strong arm them into switching to Dylan -- an interesting
accusation considering that Apple doesn't yet sell an implementation of
Nevertheless, despite the fact that I disagree with Newquist's criteria for
being a "serious" Lisp vendor (which mostly have to do with marketing, and
Apple seems to market MCL the same way it markets all its development
products), it raised questions in my own mind about how serious Apple is.
I'm a relative newcomer to this mailing list, so forgive me if I am asking
questions which have already been answered recently. My own criteria for
"seriousness" run to the following:
(1) Compiler quality.
(3) Market share.
(4) Support for the current implementation.
(5) Support for future implementations (new platforms, etc.).
My own view (without having used any of the currently competing products)
on these is as follows:
(1) I have been pleased and surprised with the quality of the code
generated by MCL. I do a lot of numerical calculations, and without doing
much optimizing (but still writing in a Fortran-ish style to minimize
dynamic allocation), my code runs at about half the speed of Symantec's
C++. By use of simple declarations, etc., I can get it to within about 25%.
Does Allegro do better?
(2) When I bought MCL, it was about the cheapest Lisp compiler on the
market that supported CLOS. I notice that Franz has finally dropped the
price of their Windows version to be competitive with MCL (well, if you
take advantage of their limited-time $400-off offer, anyway). For a while,
if you had a PC, the cheapest way to get CLOS was to buy a Mac and MCL
(only slight exaggeration). (So my criterion for being a serious Lisp
vendor is low price. Obviously, many vendors, particularly for
workstations, would take the opposite view.)
(3) Normally, anybody in the PC world automatically has a big advantage in
terms of market. But Apple is well-positioned in the academic world, which
is where I would expect the bulk of (current) Lisp sales to occur. Also I
have noticed that MCL is listed as one of APDA's best-selling products. How
many boxes of Allego CL\PC ship for every MCL? (Also, is Allegro CL\PC a
"serious" product, or does Franz concentrate more on the workstation
(4) The 2.0.1 update to MCL shows that Apple is doing some support for MCL.
The existence of this mailing list shows the same. Since I myself haven't
discovered any bugs in MCL (a far cry from my experience with C++ on PCs,
Macs, and Unix workstations), this hasn't been a problem for me in any
(5) I've seen brief mentions regarding "delays" in porting MCL to PowerPC,
by which I can only suppose that Apple is indeed creating a native PowerPC
implementation of MCL, but I would like to have this confirmed. (This has
less influence on my use of MCL than it does on when I buy a Power Mac.)
Also, if and when Apple (and other vendors, I imagine) releases Dylan, will
Apple continue to support MCL? (I don't really expect an answer to this
question. No vendor should be expected to comment on a policy based on a
product which might or might not be released, possibly several years in the
If there is anyone out there who has used Allego CL\PC as well as MCL, I'd
be very interested in comparisons. (I could always buy a Power Mac and run
Windows and Allego CL. Well, I _could_, I guess, but it's pretty unlikely.)
(I hope this message is appropriate for this mailing list. Well, it's got
to be at least as appropriate as the Green Card discussion that just
happened on the Dylan mailing list.)