Two Interesting Points of View on Dashboard

by Derrick Story

As I've continued to read up on what's being said about the Dashboard/Konfabulator issue, I've found two pieces that I think are useful and worth passing along. Not surprising, they come from two writers whom I read regularly and respect.



The first piece is by Brent Simmons of NetNewsWire fame. In his weblog, What should Apple do?, he echos the sentiments of many of us who are involved with independent development for Mac OS X. He thinks Apple should encourage private developers by cutting deals with them for the products they create that are absorbed into the operating system. Brent isn't approaching this as an ethics issue, rather as smart business. He also makes it clear that he's talking about Dashboard and not Safari RSS.



The second noteworthy piece is by Bill Palmer, Oh well, maybe next year. You have to scroll down past his disappointment in Steve's keynote to get to the section titled, Not so rosy. Bill echos another thought that I've had, which is the fact of the matter is we don't know what went on between Arlo Rose and Apple concerning Dashboard.



We do know that they have a history that includes a previous legal tussle over Kaleidoscope. We do know that neither side is maintaining a fan club for the other. But beyond that, neither you nor I know exactly what transpired. Bill does a good job of bringing that point to light.



Remember that old saying about disagreements? There are two sides to every story: yours and the sh*t head's. I'm not sure which one is which here. But I do have a request: I'd like to see more visible Apple support for independent developers. As Brent Simmons says, "It’s just good PR. Worth ten times the price they would have paid."


13 Comments

jamjarrett
2004-06-30 09:23:17
Mad over nothing
Dave Hyatt clears things up in his blog. http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/hyatt/archives/2004_06.html#005876


If anyone has something to be mad about it is the Mozilla Organization. XUL was the first html as an application builder environment that I'm aware of.

joshuawait
2004-06-30 09:36:58
Current Debate Raises Questions
Good observations about the nature of relationships between independent developers and Apple developers.


I think the latest action by Apple triggered a bit of fear in me, because it seems like a trend. First Apple uses methods for delivering web content seen clearly in Watson and now Apple will use methods for delivering desk accessory content seen clearly in Konfabulator.


I find it hard to know how to respond to my fear. Apparently, a number of people have responding with anger rather than with discussion.


I found Watson slow, clunky and unusable in it's early versions with a dialup connection. Now that I have a broadband connection, I no longer have an interest in the method of content delivery seen in Watson and Sherlock.


My wife enjoys Konfabulator quite a bit, but I find that it's more of a distraction than a useful way of delivering content. I simply wouldn't ever pay the money for the convenience.


Both of these applications are not compelling features for me. I wouldn't upgrade to an operating system to get widget X. However, simply because I, or other people, don't find utility in the particular methods delivery of content delivery does that justify Apple's actions? No, not really. And I fear that their actions may actually squash innovation rather than encourage it.


On the other hand, a web browser is also a method of content delivery. I believe the proliferation of browsers provides opportunity for a better application of the technology. At what point is the proliferation of an application of technology a natural part of developing it's usefulness and at what one point is diminishing the artistic efforts of another person?

vinbarnes
2004-06-30 10:11:31
Current Debate Raises Questions
I think the latest action by Apple triggered a bit of fear in me, because it seems like a trend. First Apple uses methods for delivering web content seen clearly in Watson and now Apple will use methods for delivering desk accessory content seen clearly in Konfabulator.


I thought that iTunes was a 3rd party app that Apple purchased... Is that not the case? Are there any other examples?

joshuawait
2004-06-30 13:46:59
Current Debate Raises Questions
iTunes was previous the Cassady & Greene SoundJam MP3 player.


Apple bought SuperClock! back in the System 6 or System 7 days and then integrated into the operating system.


Apple, I think, though I may be incorrect, bought the original code for Final Cut Pro before the product went to market which also formed part of the code for iMovie.


Software development is a process of mulching ideas and code.

derrick
2004-06-30 13:48:00
See what John Gruber has to say
Another one of my favorite writers has chimed in on the discussion. Take a look at John Gruber's weblog, Dashboard vs. Konfabulator. What's good about John's piece is that he explains some of the differences at the code level, which I think is an important part of the conversation.
dscotson
2004-07-01 04:21:28
Current Debate Raises Questions
SoundJam was marketed by Cassady & Greene but developed by an Apple employee in his spare time before being brought under Apple's banner. He is apparently now in charge of Apple's music related software development.


Final Cut Pro started at Macromedia, with a team lead by an ex-Adobe employee before being bought by Apple.


Apple also recently bought the Flurry screensaver from a student.


But I'm with John Gruber (Daring Fireball) on this and personally think Konfabulator, LiteSwitch X and Watson's creators were mainly kicking up a fuss to create publicity and expressing sour grapes rather than because they had a genuine claim on Apple.

jamie.folsom@post.harvard.edu
2004-07-01 07:10:06
Mad over nothing
While Dave Hyatt, Jon Gruber, and several others have made interesting, and informative contributions to this "controversy", they have missed the important point.


Should Apple be able to create Dashboard, and thereby eat Konfabulator's lunch? Of course. Should they have to buy and use the code the Rose and Co. wrote, if they can do it better? Of course not. Do they owe a dime to Rose? Of course not. All of that is not the point.


Could they for a very small investment of courtesy, money, recognition, do right by Rose? Absolutely. That's not even the real point here.


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. Would they sell macs to those people, and their customers? Yes. That is the point.


It is precisely those of us that don't know what happened between the parties in this mess (myself included), that have the best vantage point from which to view it. It is to us that Apple is sending the message that if you're like this guy, you'll probably get squashed, so don't try it.


That there is a controversy at all, is bad for Apple and for the platform.


Could they for a very small investment of courtesy, money, recognition, do right by Rose? Absolutely. That's not even the real point here.


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. Would they sell macs to those people, and their customers? Yes. That is the point.


It is precisely those of us that don't know what happened between the parties in this mess (myself included), that have the best vantage point from which to view it. It is to us that Apple is sending the message that if you're like this guy, you'll probably get squashed, so don't try it.


That there is a controversy at all, is bad for Apple and for the platform.

bbrown
2004-07-01 07:53:37
Current Debate Raises Questions
I think WindowShade was integrated into OS 9. And Stickies was a third-party product integrated into OS X.
cksample3
2004-07-01 17:45:48
my two cents on this...
here's what I think. boiled down: code's entirely different doesn't matter b/c the design is so similar (and from a company as design conscious as Apple, that says something). the look is a rip off just like all those iMac wanna-bees coming out of the peecee world that Apple complains or points toward. problem here is that it is a case of big guy rudely squashing little guy. not wrong. just bad form.


also, if you want to compare the look more closely, get your Tiger widgets here

brianimator2
2004-07-02 00:06:45
Absolutely not!
"Could they for a very small investment of courtesy, money, recognition, do right by Rose? Absolutely. "


No way - you know what kind of legal sh*tstorm that would expose Apple to? And for what? What is Konfabulator doing that hasn't been done before? Why should Apple pay Arlo and Co. for the right to use the Aqua look and feel???

myobie
2004-07-02 06:47:12
why pay money for...
something you would not use?


Would you invest in a product and purchase the code if you were not going to use it?


If you expect other companies to, then I expect you to!
If they are different on the code level (so different in fact that there is not resemblance) than what else is there to talk about...I mean you can skin anything!? Is apple not able to make a pretty calculator because someone else made one first?


It would be a waste of money to buy Konfab because they didn't do anything like it...


Konfab still has it's place...people will buy it...because it is very very different...

sanchonevesgraca
2004-07-06 02:47:55
Mad over nothing
Gruber makes a very important point about a fundamental choice that third-party developers should make: either develop an application or develop a runtime. The developers of Konfabulator chose to develop a runtime so the outcome is not surprising. As far as copying a design is concerned, Apple did not copy a design, since they have for a long time established their Mac look-and-feel. Software is by and large a business, so players should expect business moves. No one should expect charity such as 'giving out a hand' to indie developers. Perhaps the makers of Konfabulator would have found a more suitable home for their product on a Linux desktop with an open source license, so that Linux users would be free to use the Konfabulator runtime based on its technical merits alone.
MEP
2004-07-10 08:10:45
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.