The role of gadgets on Windows Vista

Over in the Microsoft development community there has been an increasing amount of concern over just what role gadgets (in the form of the Windows Sidebar) are going to take.
 
Windows Vista is scheduled to ship with the Windows Sidebar, a sort of dock that sits on the right side of the screen. On the sidebar, users can add "gadgets" to it. Gadgets are essentially the same as widgets that have been popularized by programs such as Yahoo Widgets, DesktopX, and Apple's Dashboard. Gadgets that come with the Sidebar currently include RSS readers, a clock, a picture viewer, a recycle bin, and an assortment of other fairly simple "mini applications" that have come to be associated with gadgets and widgets.
 
The objection some developers are having is how gadgets are made -- HTML with extensibility being done with ActiveX.  The current gadget implementation doesn't, for instance, support Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF aka "Avalon" so the graphics are done using PNGs much like DesktopX and Konfabulator have been doing for years.  Another objection is that the gadgets don't natively support .NET languages which seems odd in an OS that is putting so much stock into C# and other .NET languages.
 
As one developer on a Microsoft forum put it:
"You better have a good artist working for you, or your gadgets are going to be ugly, because they don't fancy vector graphics, or not even GDI+ for what it matters: gadgets are simply flat two-dimensional pretty bitmap created in PhotoShop. This is unacceptable and there is no excuse for you.

Developers now days are used to write c# code in VS2005 with full Intellisense support, and they don't want to use notepad to write JavaScript.

And let's not talk about debugging, because there isn't any: if you want to write gadgets then the "alert()" command is your only friend in debugging variables and functions. Good luck with that."
The issue some developers are having with the Sidebar gadgets isn't that they aren't full of potential but rather they aren't competitive functionally with other solutions that exist now (Yahoo Widgets is, after all, free). If they weren't being bundled with the OS, they would likely have little support say some.
 
One advantage that Microsoft Gadgets have over other implementations is that they can be extended fairly easily.  Opportunities for third parties may arrise to extend the base feature set so that development environments and the like that will make it much easier to create gadgets that have a little more meat.
 
What many developers are looking for is some clarification from Microsoft on what the goal of the Sidebar gadgets are -- are they looking for something that is primarily going to rest on a webpage ala Live.com or are they looking for something that will exist primarily on the user's desktop?  If it's the former, then Microsoft's gadgets make a little more sense.  But if it's the latter, Microsoft needs to start working with ISVs and users to help put in enough functionality and extensibility so that more robust and sophisticated content can be made that is useful not just to consumers but is viable in the enterprise as well.
 

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