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Konfabulator comes to Windows

Widgets a-go-go

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Konfabulator has just been released for Windows, much to the delight of its many supporters. The 8MB programme is a $25 JavaScript runtime engine that lets you run little files named Widgets that can do pretty much whatever you want them to. There are calculators, alarm clocks, calendars, cam viewers, search tools and RSS news readers. The program already contains over 300 widgets, most of them freebees.

Konfabulator used to be a MacOS X only program that takes full advantage of Apple's Quartz rendering. This allows Widgets to blend gracefully into the OS X desktop without the constraints of traditional window borders. Creator Arlo Rose used to work as a human interface designer for Apple in the 90s, and then went on to co-create the popular Kaleidoscope theming hack for the old Mac OS.

When Apple announced back in June that it would offer a feature called Dashboard as part of its next version of Mac OS X, codenamed Tiger, Rose wasn't amused: "Awfully nice of Apple to show how much they like us. Too bad they did it by completely copying our idea," he told Geekpatrol.

Apple, however, maintained that Dashboard is the company's own creation, and that Widgets have long been a part of Mac OS X and NextStep OS, which preceded the Macintosh operating system. Rose admits he can't do much about it. "Two independent developers don't have the resources to go up against Apple." However, he hopes that Dashboard will do him more good than harm.

Desktop widgets have been on Windows for over three years, with Stardock's scriptable DesktopX software racking up 2.3 million downloads. (We first covered it in June 2000). Stardock boss Brad Wardell welcomed the new arrival but told us, "Arlo is making it a big part of his marketing that he invented widgets. I've said, Arlo - you've got to stop claiming this." Mac veterans pointed out that Apple was simply re-implementing something it introduced 20 years ago, with the Macintosh's original "Desktop Accessories", or "Desktop Ornaments" as Andy Hertzfeld called them.

It may just be matter of time before Rose faces even stronger competition. Microsoft is looking into a somewhat similar functionality with Longhorn's "Sidebar", which some believe will eventually evolve into a full-blown widget program.

Critics say that although Konfabulator is eye-catching, its memory usage is somewhat inefficient. Some users claim it uses 6-10 MB of memory for every widget, a fully loaded widget desktop takes 200 MB of memory, and that all widgets run in the same process. "Ours are real standalone .EXE files," Wardell points out. ®

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