Mac users have Sherlock. Now we have Watson, an extendable application from Karelia Software that gives an “Aqua” user interface to a number of Internet-based services such as stock quotes, telephone lookup, and movie listings.
Watson functions much like Sherlock in that it bypasses the Web Browser for specific functionality, according to Dan Wood, creator of Watson. But instead of being a search engine, Watson connects to a handful of other useful services available on the Internet, he added.
“Watson came about because I found myself frequenting certain Web sites that are really applications rather than just content,” Wood said in an announcement. “Unfortunately, these Internet-based applications aren’t particularly ‘Mac-like.’ The Web stole much of the great user experience from the Macintosh. Watson steals it back.”
Watson is meant to complement, not replace, your Web browser. Some tools are entirely self-contained; others integrate with your browser, letting you navigate the Mac way into an appropriate Web page, he added.
“It’s faster and simpler than using a Web browser, because you don’t have to download superfluous graphics and lay out fancy HTML pages,” Wood stated. “And as with Sherlock, multiple sites can be accessed simultaneously.”
Watson constructs a facade over certain services, collecting them in a single Mac OS X application, according to MacTech magazine. Modules share a single window and are selected using a toolbar, just like the built-in System Preferences application. Newly released modules can be downloaded and installed directly from the application.
Using Internet services with Watson has several advantages, Wood said. Watson speeds up navigation, since HTML doesn’t need to be rendered on-screen and no superfluous graphics are transmitted over the Internet. Tools integrate with other Mac OS X applications such as TextEdit, Preview, and the Web browser. Watson tools can be truly interactive, and show “live” data rather than requiring a user to manually reload a Web page to see current information, Wood said.
“Most noticeable in Watson is the Aqua interface that one cannot find on a Web page,” he added. “A user of the Yahoo! tool, for instance, browses categories using a ‘columns’ view rather than a series of separate Web pages. Data lists appear in scrolling tables rather than free-form text. Details of selected items in a list appear in a separate ‘drawer’ below the main window.”
Watson comes with nine initial tools installed: eBay auction tracker, exchange rate calculator, image search assistant, movie schedules, telephone directory, recipe browser, stock tracker, Yahoo! category browser, and Zip Code lookup. Additional tools, available to registered users, are in the work, Wood said. A single-user license costs US$29. Downloadable as an expiring, fully functional demo, Watson can be grabbed from Karelia Software’s Web site. It works on any version of Mac OS X; a full-time Internet connection is recommended.
What’s more, new tools can be built for Watson by third-party Cocoa developers using a published API (application programming interface), and “approved” tools can be hosted by Karelia and then downloaded directly by the application.