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Apple’s Dashboard versus Konfabulator

Posted on Wednesday 30 June 2004

On Monday, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, CEO Steve Jobs previewed the next version of the Mac OS, code named Tiger. He showed off a nice array of eye candy and some actually useful bits, like multiuser video and audio conferencing, that are scheduled to be in the release about a year from now.

The Mac community has been buzzing about the preview, but one element has been the loudest. Jobs previewed a modernized version of desk accessories which Apple has called Dashboard. The problem lies in Dashboard’s striking cosmetic resemblance to Konfabulator, whose developers describe it this way:

Konfabulator is a JavaScript runtime engine for Mac OS X that lets you run little files called Widgets that can do pretty much whatever you want them to. Widgets can be alarm clocks, calculators, can tell you your AirPort signal strength, will fetch the latest stock quotes for your preferred symbols, and even give your current local weather.

Jobs called Dashboard’s files “widgets” too, which may be unfortunate, since Apple’s developer documentation for Dashboard calls them “gadgets”. Regardless, Konfabulator’s developers have cried foul, claiming that they’re being ripped off without so much as a hug, much less remuneration.

IIRC desk accessories debuted back in the pre-Mac days. Borland published SideKick which was a series of TSR (terminate and stay resident) applications which included a calculator, address book, note pad, etc. Apple included DAs with the Lisa OS as well as with the first Macs, and still includes them today with Mac OS X. Both Dashboard and Konfabulator offer an underlying system for building customized programs/widgets/gadgets, but that underlying infrastructure is entirely different in the two systems.

Yes, Konfabulator and Dashboard look eerily similar. But that’s where the resemblance ends. John Gruber has an outstanding essay on some of the history behind DA, the underlying differences between Dashboard and Konfabulator and the implications of those differences.


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