Apple, I expected better

Apple's DashboardToday at their Worldwide Developers Conference Apple previewed their new version of Mac OS X, named “Tiger”, which will be released in the next 6 or maybe 9 months. It looks pretty spiffy, with a slightly tweaked look, some updates, and some nice new tools. Unfortunately, the two coolest tools introducted in Tiger look to be blatant rip-offs of established 3rd party programs.

Apple’s Dashboard software displays “widgets,” which are basically nifty little utilities written in JavaScript. Included widgets are a datebook, stock ticker, calculator, address book, clock, and a few others. This is pretty cool, unfortunately it is very similar, down to the scripting language and the nomenclature, to the wonderful Konfabulator. Their home page says “Cupertino, start your photocopiers,” and I think they have a right to be angry. Apple didn’t offer to buy their great existing software, but simply stole the concept and re-wrote it without giving them any credit (or money).

The same seems to be true for Apple’s new Spotlight feature, which pops out of the top menu bar and allow for quick and easy searching and, one would assume, program launching, because that’s basically what LaunchBar does, another tool that I love, and that I doubt was given any money (or notice) from Apple.

Really Apple, I expected better from you. If others were to do what you’ve done, you’d take them to court. But when its a little developer, you just steal, steal away. This is pretty sad behavior, more befitting Microsoft then such an innovative computer company.

5 replies on “Apple, I expected better”

  1. Well, here we have the issue of patents in software. Should Konfabulator have been allowed to patent their tool so that Apple couldn’t duplicate it? Should Rhythmbox, which openly admits that it is a ripoff of iTunes, be legal? If open source is allowed to rip people off, then closed source should be allowed to as well. It might seem unfair, but if you go the other direction, you make almost every piece of software illegal because there is always something that did the same thing before it.

  2. I think the problem is Apple has a history of sueing people who rip them off. Even if it’s just a theme that makes Gnome look aquaish. Or an mp3 or video player from using a round touch navigation panel. Or the nautlius developers from implementing particular features. They get very upset when someone does to them what they’ve done to these other guys, which is why it’s legitimate to be disappointed in them.

  3. I think I’m persuaded by the long-winded essay at Daring Fireball that really what Konfabulator had going for it was the coolness factor, i.e. the look, not the functionality, and that people like it because it is Mac-like, and anything made by Apple will naturally be Mac-like as well. Reading about how Dashboard is based on WebCore changes things for me to some extent. I still feel sorry for the Konfab developers, but I guess sometimes you’re unlucky. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth because I do believe that Apple would have threatened and sued others who copied their interface and functionality so blatantly, but if we compartmentalized Apple Legal from Apple product development and engineering, then this probably isn’t as bad as I thought it was at first glance.

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