Dashboard: Apple’s Middle Child

The Dashboard’s great. I use it every day, and I find it very useful. I have weather, notes, iStat, a calculator,  converter, iTunes remote, and translator. So why hasn’t it received much attention lately?
The dashboard was first introduced with Tiger, and after using it, I deemed it a necessary part of my operating system. Being able to quickly check the weather, write notes down, or check my computer’s stats is incredibly convenient. And yet, I can’t remember the last time I’ve downloaded a new Widget.

An article written by Michel Simon in Mac Life Magazine expresses the same concern. It seems that Dashboard isn’t going anywhere, and yet it won’t be changing anytime soon. The Dashboard works as it should, and it’s great. The problem is low developer incentive to make Widgets. There are two main problems with the way Widgets are distributed. First, people expect Widgets to be free. Because of this, developers are less likely to want to make new Widgets. The App Store was a huge success, because developers found they could make money, even charging as little as 99¢. The second issue is that Widgets are often made for specific needs or specific people. Does the normal user need to know what processes are using a lot of cpu time, or how much memory is being used? Does everyone need a Widget concerning what’s happening on Lost? Not really. Because developers aren’t looking to make money off of Widgets, they tend to make Widgets for specific needs. Developers of a Widget are the first users of their Widget, they made it because they would use it. With this in mind instead of a larger audience, Widgets are less likely to become hugely popular.

Though Widgets aren’t flying off the shelves, they’re very important to many users, and they’re not going anywhere. Apple could potentially improve the future of Widget development by creating a market for Widgets with a price tag, however it doesn’t look like they’re going to be doing this. Until then, enjoy your Widgets, they’re great. And check out Apple’s website, you might find a gem you didn’t know you needed.
Source: Michael Simon “Are Widgets Dead?” July 2010 MacLife Magazine

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