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Is Microsoft serious about gadgets?

LiveSide's Donavon West asks what I think is a valid question (though to be fair, he is the CTO of, so he certainly has a personal stake in this discussion as well):

Has Microsoft all but given up on it's gadget platforms?

Many groups within Microsoft have blogs where they talk about what's going on in the group, give advise on programming, etc, but some groups are more involved with their readers that others. The last post to the Windows Vista Sidebar Blog is dated July 31, 2007 and the Windows Live Gadget Blog is dated June 27, 2006.

Most of the top players in Microsoft's group (the innovators of web gadgets) have either left the company or moved on to other groups within Microsoft.

At Microsoft's MIX08 conference in Las Vegas, I did not hear the word "gadget" uttered once by any panel member or during the keynote.

Microsoft has three inter-related gadget platforms--Windows Sidebar, Windows Sideshow, and of which have shown any sign of life at all. And I'm surprised this hasn't gotten that much attention: Everyone jumps all over the lack of Ultimate Extras, but that feature only affects a tiny percentage of Vista users. The lack of momentum for Microsoft's gadget platforms affects a much wider audience, including all Vista users, all users, and whatever group would eventually use SideShow if some enterprising hardware maker would just ship a decent compatible device.

All that said, as I noted in Part 2 of my ongoing series about Windows 7, the first external build of the next version of Windows shows that Microsoft is indeed refining the way it exposes Sidebar gadgets in Windows. So there's at least some hope, however small, that work is ongoing. I mean, someone changed the way gadgets work in Windows 7.

The state of Microsoft's gadgets platforms, today, however, is a joke. Two reasons why this is so:

  1. There are three different gadget platforms. While each of the gadget platforms I mention above can share some code, developers cannot write a single gadget that will work across all three platforms. That's limiting.
  2. Virtually no decent third party gadgets have ever shipped. Where as the Gmail gadgets, the Windows Live Messenger (and other Windows Live) gadgets, the other obvious gadgets that I expected we'd see by now? The gadgets on Microsoft's Gadget Gallery are universally so poor it's laughable.

Microsoft needs to be transparent here. Are they in or out? If they're not in--really in--then just give it up, please, and stop wasting our time.

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