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This is covered in my article on font formats, a reasonably recent version of which is available here:
The short answer is that ATSUI currently supports AAT advanced typography, which is essentially a re-branded GX typography, which has been around since 1991. This is a Mac-only solution, which is why none of the major cross-platform applications has ever supported it.
As of Mac OS X 10.2, ATSUI does not currently support the advanced layout features of OpenType. Apple has made some comments in public that suggest they might add more OpenType support in the future. However, due to non-disclosure agreements between Apple and Adobe, I can't comment more on their future plans.
Fonts Program Mgr.
Mr. Phinney, I read in your document that Adobe implemented Unicode in InDesign 2.0 independent of the Operating System. This is very nice and InDesign 2.0 has saved me already lots of time for our East-European language designs.
But does this mean that e.g. Quark XPress will never support the extended OpenType/Unicode character set properly until either Apple modifies their ATSUI implementation to support Adobe's OpenType fonts or until Quark also build their own Unicode implementation?
I hope that Adobe will also implement Unicode-support in the next version of Illustrator 11. The combination InDesign/Illustrator with support for Unicode will have a great advantage over XPress in my opinion.
Yes, on the Mac, Quark would have to either roll their own OpenType support or wait to see if Apple did it. However, there's not reason they couldn't use the system services for Unicode support on both Mac and Windows, if they wanted.
There are also open source libraries for Unicode support, such as FreeType, and IBM's ICU library.
I can't comment on Adobe's plans for unannounced future products, I'm afraid.