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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,603member
    Does anybody use Widgets?
  • Reply 2 of 53
    Seems a little messy...especially since not many people use widgets
  • Reply 3 of 53
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Does anybody use Widgets?



    Mac OS X Dashboard widgets? I don't find them useful at all.
  • Reply 4 of 53
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 53
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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. It?s 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.
  • Reply 6 of 53
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,469member
    I will never use such a system unless Apple integrates the server side components into Mac OS X Server.
  • Reply 7 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 53
    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/
  • Reply 8 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 53
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 53
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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 couldn?t 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 JuneCloud?s Delivery Status and Phantom Gorilla?s BBC Player Radio.
  • Reply 13 of 53
    djintxdjintx Posts: 454member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 53
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,603member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Seems like Apple couldn?t 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 JuneCloud?s Delivery Status and Phantom Gorilla?s 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.
  • Reply 16 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 53
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 53
    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?
  • Reply 20 of 53
    djintxdjintx Posts: 454member
    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.
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