Yahoo! acquires Konfabulator

Yahoo! Inc. on Monday will announce the acquisition of Konfabulator, a Macintosh and Windows application that allows users to run mini files known as Widgets on their desktop -- the same model used by Apple for its Dashboard application. Yahoo! company executives said they would also be giving Konfabulator away for free, completely doing away with the US$19.95 currently charged for the product.

Yahoo! said the reason they purchased Konfabulator was that they wanted an easy way to open up its APIs to the developer community and allow them easy access to the information on the Yahoo! Web site. In doing this, Widgets could be built without having to scrape sites in order to get information.

“What we can do with Konfabulator is wrap these services that we are opening up into an environment that is really easy for people to now become developers,” Tony Schneider, vice president of the Yahoo! Developer Network, told MacCentral.

Schneider also confirmed that Konfabulator would be available for free. In addition, Yahoo! plans to refund customers that purchased the product in the last two months.

The acquisition of Konfabulator may not be the last Mac compatible product users see from Yahoo! While Schneider wasn’t specific, he did say that there was interest in the Mac.

“There is a move at Yahoo! -- in addition to Konfabulator -- to move more onto the Mac,” said Schneider. “We want to make sure we find a way to be more cross platform.”

What does it mean for Mac users?

Arlo Rose, Longtime Macintosh developer and CEO of Konfabulator parent company Pixoria, will be staying on to head the development of Konfabulator at Yahoo! With the title Director of Widget Technology, Schneider said that, “Arlo is going to continue to drive the vision for Konfabulator and push the envelope of the platform.”

Rose also confirmed that the two engineers that worked on Konfabulator with him will also take jobs at Yahoo! to continue their work on the product, as well.

Rose said that Konfabulator would not be going away as a Macintosh application. In fact, he said it is quite the opposite as they look at new avenues of growth for Konfabulator.

“Our focus is to never stray from multiple platforms,” Rose told MacCentral. “As a matter of fact, one of our goals is to investigate ways to open up Konfabulator to things like cell phones and maybe even Linux and your Tivo device. It’s about complete multi-platform distribution.”

With the acquisition by Yahoo! Konfabulator’s developer base could soar many times beyond what it was at Pixoria. This, said Rose, is a good thing for the Mac platform.

“I think this is going to be a great opportunity for Mac users because it is opening up Konfabulator to such a huge audience that we never had the ability to do as a three person company,” said Rose. “Having Apple there with Dashboard is going to continue to drive us to make a better product.”

What about the Widgets

Yahoo! currently makes two Widgets for Apple’s Dashboard: My Yahoo! and Yahoo! Local Traffic. While the company will continue to develop those Widgets for Dashboard in the short term, no decision has been made on the future development for those products.

“Right now we will definitely continue doing those, but we haven’t fully decided yet,” said Schneider. Yahoo! will be making those Widgets available for Konfabulator and that is our focus.”

“We won’t be taking the core set of Konfabulator Widgets and making them work on Dashboard, but we will work with the people that made the Dashboard Widgets here at Yahoo and make those work with Konfabulator,” added Rose.

Rose said that there would also be opportunities at Yahoo! for some of the best Widget designers in the community. Although he could make no promises, Rose said he would also like to see a cross platform tool, so that you could convert Dashboard Widgets to Konfabulator Widgets.

For longtime Konfabulator developers, Rose believes this move will be better for them, giving them access to more resources than ever before.

“Hopefully it [developer reaction] will be positive,” said Rose. “What we’re doing is integrating ourselves into Yahoo’s developer network, so we’ll be giving them a lot more information and help than we have in the past because we will have more resources to be able to do that.”

Rose said that Yahoo! anticipates millions of downloads of Konfabulator over the next few weeks. Whether on the Windows or Mac side, both Rose and Schneider see this as a good thing for the Mac platform.

“The thing that is really important to us is that by opening it up to such a huge Yahoo audience, we get all of these Windows people that are into creating all of these amazing Widgets without scrapping sites -- that spills over to the Mac universe,” said Rose. “It takes what the Mac currently has with Dashboard and opens it up to this massive amount of people to start developing these things. It’s not just being developed on a Mac for a Mac, it’s being developed by everybody for the Mac.”

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