Apple -- there's still time to do the right thing

by Daniel H. Steinberg

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Want to see what's coming from Apple in Sherlock 3? Check out the Watson application from Karelia. It's no coincidence. Apple loved Watson. They included a demo of it in the "Phil and Avi" show at MacWorld SF in January and gave it the Apple Design Award for the most innovative Mac OS X product in May at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

At last week's MacWorld Expo keynote, Steve Jobs showed off the cool features of Sherlock. The movie tool includes the ability to check out the movies playing in your neighborhood, view the previews, and even purchase tickets at participating theatres... just like Watson. After remaining quiet, Karelia has finally posted an entry on their FAQ page to set the record straight about Watson and Sherlock. Among other things, the page notes that Karelia was not compensated by Apple.

Come on Apple -- do the right thing. We can't keep rooting for you as the good guy if you are going to engage in business practices like this.

What should Apple do?


2002-07-22 10:42:29
not so quick to judge
granted Sherlock's gonna take away Karelia's revenue stream... Sherlock was never really meant to be just a search engine. With its plugin arch., it was designed to focus your search, remove dupes, etc. You could enter a phrase and search it for books against Amazon or movies against imbd, or generally against the entire net. Sherlock 3 extends the concept to its logical next step. Sadly for Karelia, they pre-empted Sherlock's next step and came out with a bridge between Sherlock 2 and 3. Now Sherlock 3 is on, so Karelia has to innovate itself out of this... I hope they do, and I think they will... they came up with an innovative product, probably in part inspired by Sherlock, and they will again come up with something that is compelling enough for us to purchase.
2002-07-22 13:57:46
I'm no Apple apoligist but...
Where did Karelia get their inspiration from in the first place? Should Karelia compensate Apple first?

I find it very hard to believe Sherlock 3 wouldn't exist without the emergence of Watson. Sherlock 3 is such a natural progression from Sherlock 2. On the other hand I find it hard to believe Watson would exist without Sherlock. Even the name gives that away.

Don't get me wrong I'd love to see Apple compensate these guys just for the fun of it. If Sherlock 3 really is a derivative of Watson they SHOULD have done so already but it's just so implausible to think that Watson was the road to Sherlock 3.

2002-07-22 14:18:23
I'm no Apple apoligist but...
I disagree. Though Sherlock was introduced as a new and improved way to find information and you would think that these new features would be a natural extension of that. The fact of the matter is Sherlock hadn't been modified or improved in a number of years...not since OS 9 was first released. Watson billed itself as the companion to Sherlock so yeah there was some inspiration there BUT it was never designed to REPLACE Sherlock...just to supplement it. Sherlock 3 is designed to replace Watson. And after all the attention Apple gave Watson for being an example of an innovative product written exclusively for OS X, you would think that Karelia would get a bit more credit than that. I mean come on.
2002-07-22 22:38:05
Does anyone use Sherlock?
I can't figure out what to use Sherlock for. The internet search is a joke. Just looking at the options makes it patently clear that Sherlock is the wrong way to attack the job. Excite? HotBot? Lycos? LookSmart? Sprinks? Goto? Do these services even still exist? Has anyone at Apple heard of Yahoo or Google?
2002-07-23 06:46:15
Sherlock 3 - what's the point?
Although I live in the UK, I'm a big Watson fan. I don't mind waiting for UK services for TV and movies, because Watson is worth it for VersionTracker and Meerkat alone. So i don't really have any need for Sherlock 3.

However, if Apple is going to sit on the Watson pot, I certainly hope they are prepared to deliver localized web services for every region of the globe, as Sherlock 3 is undoubtedly going to make it much more difficult for Karelia to deliver these local services.

What's the right thing to do? From a user's point of view: push through localized web services from the UK to Timbuktu - web services that benefit both Watson and Sherlock users.

Beyond that, the route Apple has chosen seems inexplicable. Working with Karelia would seem like a win-win-win solution. Sherlock 3 seems to introduce win/lose ambiguity for Karelia, Apple, Watson users, and Mac users. Sherlock 3 - what's the point? (It's free.....and....?)

2002-07-23 09:35:01
Well Said Daniel
I second Daniel's motion.

Apple, please do the right thing. Please acknowledge Watson's influence on Sherlock 3.

There are many developers out there watching this issue closely. And those developers are as much part of Apple's future as the engineers within the walls of Cupertino.

This community wants to create wonderful things for your platform. Let them do it with the confidence that it won't be taken without reward.

2002-07-24 17:06:10
Oh look you gotta be kidding me people...
I take back my remarks that I'd like to see Apple compensate Karelia just for the fun of it.

Karelia followed Apple's path from the beginning, not the other way around.

Apple can't be expected to stand around while not improving its solution because a developer has produced its own version.

Sherlock 3 was a natural progression. You can't be expected to compensate for something that doesn't warrant compensation.

2002-07-26 09:17:53
No I'm not --

Look at Shelock 1 and Sherlock 2 and now look at Sherlock 3. Sherlock 3 is not a natural progression from the previous 2 releases. If Sherlock 3 contained any of the functionality from the previous two versions and just added the new features on top of them, then I might agree with you.

Now look at Watson and compare it to Sherlock 3. Sure Watson was intended as a companion to Sherlock and Karelia has done a fine job of explaining the original connection.

I would argue that Sherlock 3 resembles Watson much more than it does Sherlock 1 or 2. I don't expect Apple to not improve Sherlock -- I do, however, expect them to acknowledge the inspiration they got from this product. Although you and I disagree, I would also expect them to financially compensate Karelia. As Derrick points out in his response, I don't think Apple wants to scare innovators away from the platform.

2002-07-31 17:13:12
I'll side a bit with the poster (with caveats)
Disclaimer: I'm not a user of Karelia's Watson. All I know of it was what I gathered from looking at their web site a month or so ago and various reviews.

Actually, from what I saw, Sherlock 3 may be more of a natural progression that it may seem. Consider that almost all the services offerred on Watson are various XML Protocol Web services (perhaps all of them?) and that SOAP support was built into Mac OS X down to the level that with 10.1, I could build a full GUI-based "Watson-alike" in AppleScript studio. For all I know, Watson may be using these same Apple-supplied SOAP libraries for accessing this information.

The main thing I see is the innovative panes system that Watson seems to be using. It sort of reminds me of the old Cyberdog with a MacOS X flare. Sherlock has always been a single "query-response" search engine, not the multiple-sequence interaction with a web-based object like Watson. In many ways, it may be a natural progression (I think many of us thought of writing the same thing). From the 10.2 beta I played with in AppleStore, Apple's implementation is different (dare I say better?). Yet Sherlock 3's interface still seems "uncomfortably close" to Karelia. Too close?

While most users think web services are just the latest marketting buzzword and think dotMAC is something like Microsoft's conception of dotNET, we're at O'Reilly and outside of UserLand, you won't find a larger bunch of people who should "know better." One poster mentioned that he uses Karelia to browse Merkat's newswire. We definitely do know better. Under the hood, there is nothing unique about Watson. Can you say that with iDisk being WebDAV, AppleScript supporting SOAP, MacOS X with Samba, Apache, and a host of other open libraries and daemons, that this wasn't the direction that Apple intended to take Sherlock before Watson? I cannot. But then again, there is that "uncomfortably close" thing...

Consider that in 10.1 there was no graphical way to configure the firewall, people in need of a GUI use a shareware called BrickHouse. 10.2, from all reports, changes this. It has a better version of BrickHouse built-in but with much needed firewall chains to boot. Should Brian Hill be compensated because Apple is going to obsolete BrickHouse? What is different?

I don't hear any outcry about the impending death of BrickHouse, yet I do with Sherlock 3. When have we crossed the line between the freedom to innovate in the operating system and the "extend and destroy" policy inherent in Windows upgrades?

I don't know the answer myself and would like to see a lively discussion about it. But we must consider, that Apple was a company that got forced by developers into not supporting MacPaint and MacWrite, dumping Fourth Dimension, and, heck, they couldn't release HyperCard without journalists saying that they're cutting into the newly formed Claris Corporation. Those seem silly now, but they were deadly serious to developers at the time. On the other hand, Apple is a company that is known for giving us things like OpenDoc and then dropping it in under a year, eWorld, etc. The list goes on. If I were a Mac developer, I'd be a little jumpy too. And Apple isn't going anywhere if they don't show they've fixed that "poo on the developer" relationship. When you've broken the trust with your developer community, it is very hard to get it back. As Apple still hasn't and Microsoft will soon find out if they throw everything behind Palladium.

David Pogue mentioned in the New York Times that the pricing on Jaguar and dotMac remind him of the "bratty Apple." dotMac may be the consumer's example; is Sherlock 3 the developer's?

Having said that, I'm curious what Sherlock 3 offers the developer. Sherlock 2 had a nice, though incredibly weak API for its plugin architecture. If Sherlock 3 has a pluggable architecture like its predecessors there may be room for a Watson yet. After all there are many web services out there, and one cannot expect Apple to be implementing them all.

And if Apple falters, I can always use Linux, most others aren't so lucky.