Apple is as predatory as Microsoft

25 Comments

Think of me as a glutton for punishment. What I am about to write is going to get me a smack-down from Apple lovers all across the planet. As full disclosure, I love my OS-X, love my IPod and my miniPOD. In fact I support Apple by buying ridiculously expensive peripherals and accessories. In fact, I can ill-afford a new PowerBook ever year, but I forsake my Dunhill’s and Gray Goose for three months to pay for the shiny object of desire.

But today, I was simply and completely disgusted by Apple’s actions. The company announced its new OS, code-named Tiger. It looks very nice and cool. It has tons of new features and one in particular are the reason I am writing this post: Dashboard.

Dashboard. “The Dashboard is home to a new kind of application called Widgets. Widgets are mini-applications written in JavaScript that are designed for fun as well as function,” writes Apple on its website. Veru cool – except it is a direct rip-off of Konfabulator, a $25 Macintosh program which has been doing this for the longest time. Shame on you Apple!

Microsoft might put big mega-million dollars giants like Netscape out of business, Apple is takkng food out of the mouth of a developer. I think a lot of these tiny guys cannot fight back, and Apple gets away with it. Apple had pulled a similar stunt with Watson search technology and dealt it a mortal blow with Sherlock. (I would not be surprised if Konfabulator team defects to Windows.) The RSS reader in Safari could easily put a dent in Ranchero’s business.

This is a sign that Apple is as predatory that Microsoft and is perhaps more evil than the Barons of Redmond. Why? because time and again, Apple takes the best ideas from the “lone coder” community and subsumes into its operating system. It wants everything in the OS, just like Windows. (Ironically it was lampooning Microsoft today at WWDC!) I am pretty sure if Microsoft did something like this, it would be front page news in every newspaper across the planet. Apple, the shiny happy, smiley face Apple. It cannot do no evil. I think the mac-fan sites don’t get too critical of Apple when they should.

Think about this folks – for a minute spare a thought for that lone coder who toils to bring you the software you love. And let Apple know that it has to earn our love! [PS: I will still buy a PowerBook next year as well :-) ]

Russ is angry about it and has an open letter to all Apple developers

25 Comments

Frank

In addition to Gruber’s Daring Fireball article, have a listen to Shawn King’s interview with Arlo Rose in tonite’s editon of Your Mac Life (www.yourmaclife.com). Click on archives to hear the stream. Arlo states that once again the media ran with the part that creates drama thus making him look like a raving angered lunatic.

brunodexter

My 84 mac had desktop applets – tiny independent apps that all had sinlge use tasks.
I thought dashboard used webcore – can someone please explain how apple stole
from konfab?
Isn’t this just a case of a small copmany trying to make some hay while they can?

Om

folks – especially the more recent commenters you guys have made your point, and i will be posting an update soonest. i am glad your tummy feels better Anna. thanks for the links and your input. I deeply appreciate the updates, and knowledge.

cheers

Anna

Scott, you beat me to it. I love Daring Fireball, and for this I’m donating to his website.

I was pretty sick in my gut when the whole Konfabulator issue blew up. I’ve heard of Konfabulator before but never used it, so I downloaded it and tried it out. I thought it’s pretty cool, until my iBook started stuttering and slowed down (with about 6 widgets on). That put a kibosh on my purchase right there.

Then I watched Steve Jobs’ keynote, and my reaction is, “They’re not the same at all!” They might look similar, but how many different looks can you really come up with in OS X? The functionality seem similar, but the implementations are definitely different (this after playing with Kon for a couple nights; I’ve already decided by then what I don’t like about Kon).

Of course reading John Gruber’s article made me feel a lot better and convinced me that Apple is no Microsoft. My tummy also feels much better now.

MacBuddy

[All the whiners and bashers should read it and then comment.]

I notice that no one has.

leo prieto

Om,
I actually emailed Steve about this (without having read your post). The subject of my email was “Shame on you, Apple!”, and to my surprise, he replied! This is what he said:

Excuse me, but Mac OS 9 had desktop Widgets long before Konfabulator did. Apple was the first to use the term Widgets as well. We never complained when the Konfabulator guys “ripped off Apple” and I think its a bit unfair for them to be claiming we ripped them off now.

Steve

Xofis

You’re missing something key: this is response to MS’ Longhorn sidebar. Apple had to do it.

Charles

It’s amazing how people are completely missing the boat here. Apple has opened a new window of opportunity for the Konfab authors. Today, only a few small percentage of MacOS X users are running Konfab. In the future, every Tiger user will be running Dashboard. Apple has opened a huge market for the Konfab authors, now they can just shift their efforts into widget coding and marketing, rather than having to maintain the core application. Instead of griping, why don’t they consider this a new opportunity? There will be a huge market for widgets, far beyond whatever they could have reached with Konfabulator alone. Seems like a smart company could figure out how to make more money with Widgets than with Konfabulator.

victor

I don’t think it’s wrong personally since we all know that this happens all the time in the industry. My issue is Apple’s blatant hypocrisy. They claim that Microsoft is “stealing” or “copying” their stuff (which is arguably true) but then they go ahead and do the same thing. Heck, even the Windows platform has had this ability offered by Stardock’s DesktopX technology (which has been around longer than Konfabulator). What’s that saying? “People in glass houses should not throw stones…”

Hashim

“Apple is literally taking food out of the mouth of a developer”
I don’t think you mean “literally”. That implies that an actual person is actual food out of their mouths.

Charlie Sierra

Sean,

I’m not trying to pick on you, but your lastest post is equally false and weak.

I was a software developer at one time, wons lots of acclaim, awards etc.

It sounds like you are not a developer, or have that kind of experience.

Software is an Iceberg.

That is to say that the visual part is only 10-15% of the total application. So as far as wasting valuable resources on this endeavor is another unsupportable conclusion, because we have zero knowledge of the two products internal structures and the future plans for each product.

If Konfabulator is da bomb, they should get on the phone and sell it to Microsoft or Redhat/Novell, er forget about Linux, because the Dashboard idea is already present in that world, and its also called “Dashboard”.

The stealing of concepts is age old. Did Lotus ripoff Visual Arts? Did MSFT ripoff Lotus?

The point here is that creating a piece of software and creating a business based on software are two entirely different things.

Now if Om really wants to do a bang up article on the parallels of this episode and the Telecom business, now that would be a story.

For example, name the four biggest new software companies to hit the scene? I’d suggest the real answer here is Amazon, Yahoo, Ebay, and Google. They are merely newfangled software companies that are not liable to be co-opted by Microsoft, at least not yet.

What form will the voice telecom take in the future?

By romantically lamenting the abuse Konfabulator may or may not have suffered, you are overlooking the signaling information in the event itself. (ever read Hayek, von Mises?)

Change is good, but also painful. Beware the lure of the status quo.

Rick Gregory

Charlie,

Selective disclosure goes on all the time, under NDA. There’s no issue of breaking that law as long as an NDA is in place – MSFT does NDA briefings (or used to, I’ve been to a few), I assume Apple does as well.

Sean stated well the reasons people are annoyed (pretty exact copy, secondary features, etc), but keep in mind that this whole thing happened with Sherlock/Watson not that long ago.

And the ad hominem attacks (assuming calling someone a Michael Moore clone is considered an attack) are out of place.

Sean

Charlie, I didn’t mean to imply that Apple has broken the law. To me, this is a matter of corporate conscience, and appreciation toward their developer community – without which any operating system is dead in the water. While there’s always the risk of the OS “baking in” your product, I can honestly say that Konfabulator doesn’t seem like an obvious or even particular useful feature to bake in. I remember feeling the same way when Microsoft baked in Stacker-like functionality although I wasn’t surprised when they baked in QEMM-like functionality. I must be fickle.

Sean

It’s a fair point to say that we don’t know what actually happened. I’m just surprised that, with Konfabulator being such a widely known product, and with the Dashboard demo looking pretty much exactly like Konfabulator (not to mention being JavaScript-based), Apple would expect anything less than the mini-firestorm that’s going around. If Apple did approach Konfabulator, the Kon. guys are doing a great job of faking otherwise.

While the idea of desktop gadgets has been around for a long time, the implementation has usually varied (remember ActiveDesktop?). The nearly identical appearance and JavaScript makes me believe that this isn’t simply stealing a concept so much as pretty ripping off a concept + implementation.

As much as I feel for the developers, I’m mostly pissed that Apple, with it’s limited resources as opposed to Microsoft, actually wasted developer resources re-doing something someone else has already done that adds so little real value. I’d much rather more time went into Spotlight or perhaps Exchange server support.

Charlie Sierra

Sean,

You seem to suggest that Apple break the law. Selective and early disclosure of future products without proper confidentially protections, etc. could be seen as a violation of “Full Disclosure”.

Secondly, thank god we are not (yet?) a socialist country. The burden for Konfabulator’s future and the obvious risk of being co-opted by Apple, Microsoft, or anybody else belongs to Konfabulator alone.

Charlie Sierra

Well I don’t want to raise your blood pressure, but I take issue with you promoting a mere opinion as the basic (unsupportable) assertion (ala Moore) of a blatant software ripoff.

Simple critical thinking, ie asking penetrating questions, and a dap of research/industry knowledge is all thats needed to cast doubt about what you assume to be causal connection or a mere concidence.

One case in point: Konfabulator is hardly unique, or special, etc.
see: http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/

One device of critical thinking is to play the devil’s advocate, and it should be quite clear that Apple probably has a long list of items on the drawing board that have been queued for years, etc.

As a sidenote, I once worked with Jef Raskin, and you’d be surprised how much UI innovation was mapped out years and years ago.

What if Apple did approach these guys, and the Konfabulator guys were assholes and told Apple screw you? Who the hell knows? Perhaps this is the real story here.

My comment about Moore, while rooted in jest, is also applicible because you and Damian are prematurely jumping to (what you should know to be) unsupportable conclusions.

I could go on, but shirely you get my drift. I wouldn’t complain if I didn’t expect more.

Sean

At the very least, Apple could let the developers know ahead of time and just acknowledge the inspiration. Perhaps provide a small (relative to a corporate budget) one-time pay out, super duper developer access, free upgrades for life, and hope like hell for good will. The way they’ve done it with Dashboard is just sickening and is generating a bunch of bad will.

Om

Charlie, I would wait for your full comment. but please this is nothing like michael moore. (higher standard … charlie you compared me too moore: please he is fatter and a liar – i am just fatter)

jokes aside, look i am for the little guys on this one – sometimes even in brutal cold capitalistic body, you can find a bleeding heart. i just am angry with this blatant rip-off.

Charlie Sierra

I don’t have the time to eviscerate you guys right now, so to cut to the chase: you are soooo wrong!!!!

I generally prefer precision thinking, and this post + comments are close to making Michael Moore look like an objective truth teller.

Om,
I expect a higher standard.

Rick Gregory

Damian,

I can’t agree here – this is a feature that hurts a small developer while not adding something that will materially help their market. And, as Om points out, they could simply have licensed Konfabulator. The fact is that they can get away with this because small developers don’t have the resources to fight back. Even if there’s a legal argument that could be made, they simply don’t have the resources.

Om

Sure that is one way of looking at it, but I guess this dashboard feature could be for example licensed from the little guy for a few pennies a OS copy shipped. I think ripping off is something one leaves to the Win peeps

Damian

Apple’s still a business – despite their image of being one for the people. Hence, for instance, the closed nature of the iPod – they will do what they have to do to protect and grow the company. They’re certainly not going to let a small developer stop them from expanding the revenue base given the way their hardware sales are going…

Om

it is a shame isn’t it that apple has to pick off from small developers who are basically the only ones going out on a limb and supporting the apple platform. i think this is how the big guys work – but apple is always viewed as one for the people.

Damian

That’s the way the big guys work and Apple is no different. Apple has become more like this since Steve came back. Since then, they’ve put out a brower application, a video editing application, and soon, I would imagine, a word processing package. Why? Because their marketshare has slipped so far that they can’t get large developers to put big resources around developing Mac versions of products. So one by one, Apple will pick off the smaller developers.

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