Waiting for Widgets

Apple is looking for a few good widgets. Last week, the company put the call out to developers through its Dashboard Widget Contest. To the designer of the winning widget goes the spoils—a 40GB iPod and public recognition for a job well done.

Dashboard, of course, is one of the pre-announced features in the forthcoming Tiger update to Mac OS X. Back when it was first introduced, my colleague Jason Snell described Dashboard as a combination of the classic Mac’s Desk Accessories and Expos´e. In essence, it’s another layer of the Mac interface for running small programs—Apple’s Web site depicts a clock, calendar, iTunes controller, and the like—called widgets. If you’re still curious as to what a widget might be, check out Konfabulator, the Arlo Rose-Perry Clarke program for running widgets that has the added advantage of being out now and not at some undisclosed time in the first half of 2005.

Before you start planning which songs will hold a place of honor on your free iPod, realize that the Dashboard Widget Contest is restricted to Apple Developer Connection members whose memberships include access to pre-release versions of OS X 10.4. I won’t presume to speak for you, but that condition pretty much precludes me from coming up with a widget for Dashboard. Well, that, plus my staggering inability to develop applications, simple or otherwise.

But just because I can’t participate in the Dashboard Widget Contest doesn’t mean I don’t have a few suggestions about widgets I’d like to see once Tiger and Dashboard are ready for prime-time next year.

I’m something of a baseball fan (in the same way that Steve Jobs is something of a high-ranking employee at Apple). Unfortunately, the 30 Major League Baseball teams are rude enough to schedule their contests for when I really should be working. It’d be nice if there was a Dashboard widget that let me follow the pitch-by-pitch action of any Oakland Athletics’ game, as well as contests featuring other, lesser teams. (For the record, there are such widgets for Konfabulator—Sujal Shah’s Baseball Monitor is one of the better ones, though you’ll have to wait until pitchers and catchers report in February to see for yourself.)

I also fly a lot. And while it might be nice to have an applet that keeps tabs on airfares for my commonly-traversed routes, that sounds a little bit beyond what widgets are intended to do (or at least, my understanding of what they’re intended to do). A widget that tracked arrival and departure times, however, might do the trick as well.

Those are the sorts of things I’m hoping some enterprising widget-maker is tinkering with—any other requests?

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