Opinion: Page (1) of 3 - 07/09/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Rumblings Underfoot

Signs point to something pretty cool lurking behind Dashboard By Kevin Schmitt

Well, WWDC 2004 has come and gone, and with it, another chance for the faithful to fill up on the Steve Jobs Kool-Aid. And while our respective tummies are sloshingly full of Aluminum Displays and Tiger goodness, the real news that came out of the conference may just be what wasn't explicitly shown rather than what made it into the Stevenote. And since reading the Apple tea leaves is always good wholesome fun, I definitely feel some of the ol' rampant speculation coming on.

To be completely honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Tiger. Features like Spotlight seem to be a solution in search of a problem (Steve's blanket proclamation of it being "impossible" to find anything on one's hard drive leaned towards outright demagoguery), but in all likelihood Tiger will be pretty darned good in the end despite my misgivings. I'll readily admit that I'm shortsighted, cynical, and not easily impressed, as is my usual frame of mind when I have to wait a long time between announcement and availability. It's just my way of dealing with the lag time, so it's likely that when I say "a solution in search of a problem," it probably will actually mean "enormous timesaver that I didn't even know I needed but badly did." After all, I seem to remember having a similar "ho, hum" attitude about seeing Exposé demonstrated for the first time during the WWDC 2003 keynote, and now I can't imagine my computing day without it. So I'm willing to give Tiger the benefit of the doubt. The bottom line, though, is that I tend not to buy into any hype too much until the product is shipping, so I'll try to soldier on somehow for the next year or so without wondering just how groundbreaking something like H.264 support in QuickTime will actually be until I have it in my own hot little hands. Anyway, the point to which I'm taking the scenic route is that while I'm looking forward to Tiger, I'm more interested in seeing the expected system speedups and performance tweaking than whatever whiz-bang new feature Steve finds sexy this week. BUT (big but forthcoming)...

Even with that as the stated case, I find myself thinking more and more about one of the things Tiger is supposed to ship with: Dashboard (which you can preview for yourself at Apple's Web site if you haven't seen it yet). I find myself dwelling not on the implementation itself, or the resulting stink that erupted over whether or not Dashboard was, in fact, a rip-off of Konfabulator (both interesting side discussions in their own right), but in the underlying technology that is at the heart of Dashboard and where it might be going. The fodder for this line of thought comes not from what was shown of these technologies during WWDC, but in little snippets posted by David Hyatt on his Surfin' Safari blog. For those of you who aren't familiar with David Hyatt, he was one of the original developers of the Gecko-based Camino (née Chimera) browser before moving on to become a Safari developer for Apple. I've been reading Surfin' Safari for many moons now, and while I don't understand a lot of what David talks about since I'm not a developer, there are usually some very interesting tidbits for designer-types like myself. And recent entries have proved more interesting than usual, which has started the little hamster in my head spinning 'round in his wheel.

Now, before I start analyzing some of the things recently posted on Surfin' Safari, let me put the cart before the horse and just spill what I think (or, at least, what I hope) is brewing: Apple is readying a multimedia-focused application development framework that is based on standard Web technologies while allowing for the inclusion of other media types such as QuickTime and Flash. And Dashboard is merely the early public face of this framework. Huh? I'm probably wrong (as usual), but let's delve a little deeper by examining the clues.

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Related Keywords:Mac OS X, Tiger, Dashboard, Safari, Widgets, Konfabulator, WebKit

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