As you know if you’ve read this blog earlier this week, I was at Microsoft’s Search Champs shindig. If you want to know more about what went on, there are plenty of other bloggers doing brain dumps. Me, I just want to write about one thing.
I’ve been talking about widgets for a long time now; both the ones from Konfabulator (now Yahoo!) and the ones from Apple (and yes, I know that Microsoft calls them Gadgets, but I’m calling them all lower-case “w” widgets here to group them together). And what I love love love about them is the idea of lightweight applications that can be created by people who aren’t programmers, aren’t developers, don’t even think of themselves scripters — people who, if asked, might call themselves Web designers. Or just designers. Or sometimes Web developers, but when pressed, will volunteer that they aren’t “real programmers.”
Where people from corporations who implement widgets keep screwing up is that they think that they have to then sell creating those widgets to their usual developer crowd — the ones deep into Cocoa or C# or whatever. And the result is a big honking silence. Well, yeah; if you know how to create “real” applications, why on earth would you want to cripple your capabilities? What isn’t happening is trying to sell creating widgets to their natural audience: those Web designers I referred to above.
This post ain’t the first time I’ve ranted about this. For instance, I did this rant straight in the face of Apple’s Dashboard Widget crew back at WWDC. I did it again to MS this week when they talked about Gadgets.
One thing, though, was very, very different between those two rants: the Microsoft folks listened. Or at least they did a darn good impression of it. I spent a bunch of time talking to Steve and Sanaz, and I think they really understood what I was talking about and what I was trying to get at. For instance, Sanaz told me that she’s going to be doing two sessions on Gadgets at Mix06 (Microsoft’s upcoming conference which they describe as “a 72-hour conversation between web developers, designers and business leaders”). I asked her if either was “Gadgets for Designers,” and she said no. “Well, why not?,” I asked. And it looked like she got it.
The actual proof will be in what Microsoft does next, of course. They might not care. They might care, but internal politics make it irrelevant. Or they could be a huge corporation that can’t turn its message around that quickly. But I’ll be paying attention to see, and that’s how I’ll know whether the trip to see them was worth my time.
Two bonus comments for those who’ve made it down this far:
1. Here’s Apple’s current Top 50 Dashboard downloads. How many of them consume Web services? How many are just fun static doohickeys?
2. I ran the Dashboard Developer BOF at Macworld Expo earlier this month.
- Number of Apple employees who attended: 1.
- Number of Microsoft programmers from the Redmond campus who work on Windows who attended: 3.