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Apple exploring cloud-based, cross-platform, touch-capable widgets

post #1 of 54
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Apple has shown interest in creating a system of cross-platform widgets that could be accessed and shared in a variety of manners, including on a Mac, an iPad or through a browser.

In May, Apple filed a continuation for its patent application entitled "Workflow Widgets," which describes a system that would allow users to launch a widgets on one device, and access it from a second device. The document describes widgets that could be displayed on a variety of devices, including desktops (Mac OS X, Windows and Linux are named), Web browsers, and "multi-touch sensitive displays," including phones and other portable devices.

"For illustrative purposes, widgets (including linked widgets) are described as a feature of an operating system," the application reads. "Workflow widgets, however, can be implemented in other contexts as well, including e-mail environments, desktop environments, application environments, hand-held display environments and any other display environments."

The application notes that the "simplicity and utility" of widgets makes them advantageous to more "traditional workflow technologies" such as e-mail and instant messaging.

The invention describes a server that would host the widget dashboard. Client computers and devices would access this server and display their appropriate widgets, obtaining information that may have been created or settings that may have been configured on another machine.

While this could allow information or settings to be synced across multiple devices for one user, it could also allow for collaboration between multiple users. In one example, Mac OS X is shown with a "Party Planner Widget," which would allow attendees to RSVP or add information such as what food they will be bringing to a gathering.



It also describes dashboard clients that would "omit conventional interface features such as a menu bar, window frame, and the like."

In addition, there are a number of other applications and granted patents related to the "Workflow Widgets" document, first filed in 2006, suggesting that Apple has shown considerable interest in this area. They include inventions for "Linked Widgets," "Multiple Dashboards," and "Widget Security."



Earlier this year, it was suggested that Apple could add widgets to iOS, and specifically to its newly launched iPad, when the company began removing widget applications from the App Store. Coincidentally, on Thursday Apple shed more light on why those applications were rejected, when it published its App Store Review Guidelines.

"Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-app widget experiences will be rejected," the official rules read.

The prospect of Apple-branded mobile widgets was further supported by the fact that the iPad does not include applications found standard on the iPhone, including Stocks, Weather and Clock, that would be well suited to a widget interface. An early version of the iOS 3.2 software development kit for the iPad also hinted at the inclusion of widgets.

Apple first introduced the Mac OS X Dashboard and accompanying widgets with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Based on HTML, CSS and JavaScript, they are essentially tiny webpages that are rendered through WebKit, the engine behind Apple's Safari browser.
post #2 of 54
Does anybody use Widgets?
post #3 of 54
Seems a little messy...especially since not many people use widgets
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post #4 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

Mac OS X Dashboard widgets? I don't find them useful at all.
post #5 of 54
I doubt that Apple is simply talking about extending the Dashboard paradigm here. "Widgets" are generally understood to be small, easily invoked, single purpose applications.

One of the selling points of Android is the ability to deploy widgets on the home screen, something similar for iOS would be welcome. Making it cross-platform might enable some interesting bits of integration, although nothing really springs to mind.
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post #6 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Mac OS X Dashboard widgets? I don't find them useful at all.

I use them all the time. Its a great way for me to get a lot of information with a quick move of my mouse to the upper-right- hand corner of the screen. I do wish Apple had updated them for Snow Leopard. At least adding location awareness to their Weather widget and making their Stocks widget perform like the Stocks app on iOS.
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post #7 of 54
I will never use such a system unless Apple integrates the server side components into Mac OS X Server.
post #8 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

I sure would if it was an option in iOS. I would like to be able to check the weather or stocks or scores or whatever without having to open an app. That's the one Android thing I wish iOS had.
post #9 of 54
Widgets seem to have been somewhat forgotten. I used to use one to wake up other Macs but I have an Airport Extreme that handles that now.

Widgets tied to remote machine functions would be useful to me. Controlling EyeTV or iTunes on a Mac across the network would be useful to me, maybe. Those are things I do with my iPhone now...

Looking at the top 50 widgets there isn't much to get excited about.

http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/top50/
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post #10 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

I doubt that Apple is simply talking about extending the Dashboard paradigm here. "Widgets" are generally understood to be small, easily invoked, single purpose applications.

One of the selling points of Android is the ability to deploy widgets on the home screen...

I don't know how much of an actual selling point it is, talking point might be more accurate.

But, yeah, I hope Apple is not just thinking about extending Dashboard.
post #11 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

I don't know how much of an actual selling point it is, talking point might be more accurate.

LockInfo is one of two reasons I would still want to jailbreak my iPhone.
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post #12 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

One of the selling points of Android is the ability to deploy widgets on the home screen...

...which raises the question of prior art for this patent application.
post #13 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Widgets seem to have been somewhat forgotten. I used to use one to wake up other Macs but I have an Airport Extreme that handles that now.

Widgets tied to remote machine functions would be useful to me. Controlling EyeTV or iTunes on a Mac across the network would be useful to me, maybe. Those are things I do with my iPhone now...

Looking at the top 50 widgets there isn't much to get excited about.

http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/top50/

Seems like Apple couldnt find a way to make money with them so they dropped supporting them. Dashboard between Leopard seems virtually unchanged.

I use multiple Weather widgets, stock widgets (since they only hold so many in a single widget), the convertor app (which I find easier and better than using the calc app or an online convertor).

The 3rd party widgets I use are JuneClouds Delivery Status and Phantom Gorillas BBC Player Radio.
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post #14 of 54
Hmmm, maybe I am just an optimist here, but this could easily be related to the new Apple TV. No one knows for sure yet if the new Apple TV has a new iOS foundation, or if it is still OS X/Front Row...but if they haven't rewritten it with iOS yet, the smart money says that they will at some point.

And, I don't see any good reason why they would make the jump to iOS on the ATV if they didn't plan to give it widget/app functionality. This seems like the logical path. Personally I think the new ATV already has iOS inside, and just a skin of the old front row until they are ready to unleash the full transition.
post #15 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by RationalTroll View Post

...which raises the question of prior art for this patent application.

Windows Mobile has been using widgets years before the first Android phone ever shipped.

Palm used them on the Pre as well.

They are nothing new and seriously lacking on the static screens of iOS 4.
post #16 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Seems like Apple couldnt find a way to make money with them so they dropped supporting them. Dashboard between Leopard seems virtually unchanged.

I use multiple Weather widgets, stock widgets (since they only hold so many in a single widget), the convertor app (which I find easier and better than using the calc app or an online convertor).

The 3rd party widgets I use are JuneClouds Delivery Status and Phantom Gorillas BBC Player Radio.

I was enthusiastic about widgets when the dash was first introduced but I am a browser guy and all my essential bookmarks are one click away at the top of my browser. If you don't use the dashboard frequently it takes time to wake up and update.

What would be very cool on OSX is if the dash could literally be a version of ios with all my apps spread across the screen.
post #17 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

I doubt that Apple is simply talking about extending the Dashboard paradigm here. "Widgets" are generally understood to be small, easily invoked, single purpose applications.

So far, the only person who gets it.
post #18 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

LockInfo is one of two reasons I would still want to jailbreak my iPhone. ...

But, for the average consumer, looking for a smartphone, how much of a selling point is this compared to say features like FaceTime, Retina Display, etc.
post #19 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJinTX View Post

Hmmm, maybe I am just an optimist here, but this could easily be related to the new Apple TV. No one knows for sure yet if the new Apple TV has a new iOS foundation, or if it is still OS X/Front Row...but if they haven't rewritten it with iOS yet, the smart money says that they will at some point.

And, I don't see any good reason why they would make the jump to iOS on the ATV if they didn't plan to give it widget/app functionality. This seems like the logical path. Personally I think the new ATV already has iOS inside, and just a skin of the old front row until they are ready to unleash the full transition.

It's definitely running iOS, it uses an A4 chip.
post #20 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

I use the iBank widget and two or three others all the time. Why launch a program when you can get the information in or out with a widget?
post #21 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

It's definitely running iOS, it uses an A4 chip.

I knew it was the A4 chip, but hadn't heard anyone proclaim that this meant it had to be iOS. I figured they could run the old software on the new hardware, and then switch over if and when they wanted to. If it is in fact already running iOS, then this is very good news. I wish they had announced and demo'd an all new interface. Not that I dislike the current UI, but something new and evolved would have been really nice.
post #22 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post


What would be very cool on OSX is if the dash could literally be a version of ios with all my apps spread across the screen.

It sounds like a cool idea, but iOS apps are made for a 'direct look and touch' interface. Yes, some motion based iOS game apps would work great, especially with an iphone or touch as the controllers, but, most other apps can't be used unless you touch the on screen content directly while looking at the same idevice screen.

That being said, including a section for apps for motion based games for the Apple TV would be great!
post #23 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

I find them very useful and I used to use them every day, multiple times a day.

With the inception new Magic Mouse however, my use of them has been cut in half, since there isn't a button to access them literally under your finger anymore.

I wish they would add a tap or a double-tap to the Magic Mouse that simulates the third button.
post #24 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by MenLoveToys View Post

... They are nothing new and seriously lacking on the static screens of iOS 4.

I'm guessing you don't really know what a widget is or you wouldn't say this.
post #25 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post

I sure would if it was an option in iOS. I would like to be able to check the weather or stocks or scores or whatever without having to open an app. That's the one Android thing I wish iOS had.

You people are seriously confused about what a widget is and what iOS is. Almost every app on iOS qualifies as a "widget" when you use the functional definition, and *all* web apps on iOS qualify no matter what definition you use. Web OS could easily be described as a widget OS.

A widget is just a small custom (usually) web-based app that does one thing and one thing only and has a simple unique interface for that purpose.

Talking about whether Android has widgets, or iOS does, or who had them first is just plain silly and kind of misses the point entirely.
post #26 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In one example, Mac OS X is shown with a "Party Planner Widget," which would allow attendees to RSVP or add information such as what food they will be bringing to a gathering.

This sounds very similar to what Google was attempting to do with Google Wave. One of the examples actually showed a party invitation Wave with an RSVP widget and people adding information such as what food they were bringing.

Google Wave failed (creating a separate system and limiting access to it is not a good way to launch a new communication tool), but they did have some cool ideas in Wave which I hope to see again in the future.
post #27 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

... I use multiple Weather widgets, stock widgets (since they only hold so many in a single widget), the convertor app (which I find easier and better than using the calc app or an online convertor). ...

Well, yeah, I assume some people use them, or no one would bother making them. But, for example, for weather, I just use weatherbug (the version without the alerts, nice because it uses local weather station data) which gives me the temps in the menu bar, and forcastfox, which gives a bit more information. (Although, these days, I'm just as likely to grab my iPad or iPhone if I want more than just the temp.) I don't have stocks that I watch regularly, and conversions I either use the calculator app (which is normally always running) or convertbot on the iPhone.

I don't think it's the concept of widgets that isn't useful, just that the ones available with Dashboard don't seem that useful for me. (And, I never liked the context change required to use them.) The Apple Remote app is sort of a (useful) widget (as are many iPhone apps), and a widget for the desktop that would allow you to, for example, set up rentals on AppleTV for later might be useful if you have AppleTV. So, that type of widget, where you can control various devices around your personal ecosystem, using other devices, might be useful, especially if the widgets run cross platform and don't necessarily need to be installed.
post #28 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

I find them very useful and I used to use them every day, multiple times a day.

With the inception new Magic Mouse however, my use of them has been cut in half, since there isn't a button to access them literally under your finger anymore.

I wish they would add a tap or a double-tap to the Magic Mouse that simulates the third button.

I think you might be able to accomplish that with BetterTouchTool: http://boastr.net/
post #29 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by themus View Post

It sounds like a cool idea, but iOS apps are made for a 'direct look and touch' interface. Yes, some motion based iOS game apps would work great, especially with an iphone or touch as the controllers, but, most other apps can't be used unless you touch the on screen content directly while looking at the same idevice screen.

That being said, including a section for apps for motion based games for the Apple TV would be great!

Yes - I understand that iOS is a touch based system but in my ignorance I imagine it would be possible to create an environment where the mouse interacted with the apps much like a finger does. In which case ios apps would become the new widgets, I guess. Specially useful if what you did on OSX/iOS would sync via mm to the i-device version of the ap. But as I said, my imagination here is firmly rooted in ignorance.
post #30 of 54
Sounds more like a rip-off of Google Wave, RIP...
post #31 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

You bet. Its just that most people call them "Apps" now.
post #32 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Mac OS X Dashboard widgets? I don't find them useful at all.

There are some useful ones, but they are pretty much dead since iOS apps got all the good press.

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post #33 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post

Does anybody use Widgets?

Actually I often forget that I have a bunch of widgets in dashboard. I just popped up dashboard and frankly the only thing I can remember using recently is a character code tool. Part of this lack of interest is due to iPhone, it is often easier to grab it and get the info required.

Speaking of which if I where to get an iPad i would need widgets there or replacement apps for the iPhone apps I use a lot. The clock app is a big one as i use it for timing, alarms and of course as a stop watch. On iPad i would not care if it was an app or a widget but Apple does need to provide the infrastructure to make the app/widget viable. A weather widget is also used frequently on the iPhone also, but again on iPad it doesn't matter how it is implemented.

In the end I'm not sure I see the point. Especially with trying to maintain state across multiple devices. Currently widgets on the Mac are pretty much a waste, that sort of functionality is what iPhone is good for. Besides whos server is this stuff going to sit on? The types of apps where this might be useful, banking comes to mind, would require some very significant assurances of security.

I'm just trying to figure out uses where having your widget state on a server would be worth the trouble. Seems pointless to me.
post #34 of 54
The current Dashboard scheme prevents you from using Widgets as the same time as Mac OS X apps. This seems, to me anyway, like the way to keep widgets around while you're working in other apps.

For example, in the diagram, you see a Party Planner Widget. You could click over to iCal to see whether the 18th is a Saturday or not, then continue working in the Party Planner Widget. Simple example, but it makes Widgets a whole lot more useful bringing up Dashboard to move back and forth between Widgets and apps.

And cloud-based Widgets would give Apple a safe and sane way to experiment with cloud services in general starting with, maybe, Mac OS 10.7. After a year or so of gaining experience and continuing to build out the MobileMe infrastructure (or whatever other cloud services they would need) they could roll cloud services deep into Mac OS 11.0. (I predict that they will drop the "X" and just call it Mac OS 11.)

I wouldn't be terribly shocked if Apple then began to name their OS releases after types of clouds. Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbus, Cumulonimbus, Altostratus, Altocumulus, etc. Just to remind people that they're heavy into cloud computing.

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post #35 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

You bet. Its just that most people call them "Apps" now.

There is actually something to that. Checking movie times and using a calculator, as well as other tasks, are much easier for me to complete by grabbing my iPhone even whilst in front of my Mac.
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post #36 of 54
Why do they need a patent for this. In our in house apps, we do this already for 5,5 years. Later included using dashboard and included iPxxx.
post #37 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by skipaq View Post

I use the iBank widget and two or three others all the time. Why launch a program when you can get the information in or out with a widget?

Thanks! I use iBank for Mac and iPhone for every financial transaction I make and didnt know about this widget.
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post #38 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

You people are seriously confused about what a widget is and what iOS is. Almost every app on iOS qualifies as a "widget" when you use the functional definition, and *all* web apps on iOS qualify no matter what definition you use. Web OS could easily be described as a widget OS.

A widget is just a small custom (usually) web-based app that does one thing and one thing only and has a simple unique interface for that purpose.

Talking about whether Android has widgets, or iOS does, or who had them first is just plain silly and kind of misses the point entirely.

Bookmark this, people.

Thanks, Prof., for saving me having to say this, and probably saying it less eloquently.
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post #39 of 54
What the official iOS needs is:

1. SBSettings.
2. Widgets from a SBSettings-type panel.

Also, Dashboard widgets on a Mac are almost completely useless. They take longer to load than most iPhone apps, and are easily forgotten about.
post #40 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

You people are seriously confused about what a widget is and what iOS is. Almost every app on iOS qualifies as a "widget" when you use the functional definition, and *all* web apps on iOS qualify no matter what definition you use. Web OS could easily be described as a widget OS.

A widget is just a small custom (usually) web-based app that does one thing and one thing only and has a simple unique interface for that purpose.

Talking about whether Android has widgets, or iOS does, or who had them first is just plain silly and kind of misses the point entirely.

However, an App, as its now defined by iOS, is typically far more than a widget, and the apps that used to be adequate but are now seen as near worthless, are the apps that still perform like widgets. (Weather, Stocks).
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