Weblog:   Two Interesting Points of View on Dashboard
Subject:   Mad over nothing
Date:   2004-07-10 08:10:45
From:   MEP
Response to: Mad over nothing

"Could Apple, by not antagonizing the makers of Watson, and Liteswitch X and Konfabulator, energize a legion of amateur and professional programmers to provide more free help of the kind that Rose provided: prototyping, market research, buzz generation? Yes."

Apple could reward the Konfabulator guys for doing the early design work for them. They could reward every indie developer who fills a gap in OS X. And that would encourage more programmers to use their time to do these things.

But that opens a Pandora's Box of new problems. You yourself use the term "legions" to describe the potential outbreak of new developers. What happens when all of them want a piece of Apple's pie? How much can Apple afford to pay before they start losing? Why should they pay for ideas if they're just going to rewrite the whole thing from scratch anyway (as they did in Dashboard)? Where does Apple draw the line between innovation that deserves recognition and derivative work?

Surely you don't feel the LiteSwitchX developers deserve any money from Apple. After all, the primary feature of their program has existed for decades in Windows and X and even earlier versions of the Mac OS. It was only a matter of time before Apple closed that very obvious hole in their software. LiteSwitch was just a stopgap solution and the developers themselves should've been well aware of that fact or they were just kidding themselves.

Likewise with the Konfabulator folks. What they've done is not really new. Konfabulator is similar in many ways to shell extensions and replacements (like LiteStep for instance or the many window managers available for X Windows). The primary difference is in the ease of developing widgets due to the Javascript and XML engine it's based on.

The idea is not new at all, merely the execution of that idea.

Apple is not using their execution of the idea. They've developed their own system using the WebKit as it's core. Why should they pay Rose for an idea that's not really his?

I'm with Gruber on this issue. Rose et al. made the wrong product. They should've developed a useful and powerful widget IDE and sold it while giving away Konfabulator for free. They could've adapted that product to Dashboard and continued onward. Hell, Apple might have even bought that product if it was good enough. Instead they chose to develop an application with an obvious shelf-life, and now it's expired. I feel sorry for them since their going to lose a lot of revenue, but I can't honestly say that they didn't bring this upon themselves.