Apple Spaces Needs Competition

Spaces Pager TAB
Leopard (OS X.5) was one of those big releases that while I was excited about it on principle, there weren’t many of the announced features that [on the surface] got me purring. The feature that garnered the most excitement for me was Spaces. I’m a longtime virtual desktop user and have gone through all of the offerings for the Apple platform. So the idea of having the functionality baked-in was an attractive one to me.

A sad side-effect to the news of Spaces however, was the announcement that a former favorite in this space – Virtue Desktops – would be shutting down further development. The story of Apple taking the best ideas and applications and baking them into the Mother Ship isn’t anything new – but generally the developers of these applications hang in there a bit before throwing in the towel. The most unfortunate part however is that competition is good for the consumer, typically resulting in better quality, more features, and plenty of options to fit any user. I completely understand being busy and not wanting to make time for a side project that would most likely be Apple’s victim, however I do wish the competition against Apple’s Spaces would make a fight out of it.

I don’t want to rehash all the gripes with Spaces that have accumulated around the internet these past couple of weeks, but let’s just say I agree with basically all of them. Mostly the issues stem from the ridiculous lack of configuration options. But the whole zooming me from one Space to another when I OPT+TAB is gonna send me over the edge one day in the not too distant future. Seriously. Why on earth would I want be bounced back and forth amongst my Spaces each and every time I want to work in a different application? My personal workflow has me using the Virtual Desktop concept as a division for my projects, not my tasks…But I digress. I do get it though – Spaces is meant to bring Virtual Desktops to the masses in a way that they can all get it. Unfortunately that leaves the rest of us starving for more.

The real shame here is that some great applications have faded into the background as Apple has released their own replacements. So those of us who loved those third party apps are left wanting when Apple’s solution doesn’t cut the mustard. When those great developers forsake their code – and consequently, their users – the spirit of competition and innovation in that particular application space is generally lost…Or at the very least, left up to Apple and their timeline to update. I’m fearful that Spaces is a prime example of this.

I’m greatly saddened by the fact that my two favorite [Pre-Leopard] Virtual Desktop apps are no longer getting any love from developers. Desktop Manager hasn’t been touched for a couple years, and Virtue Desktops (which hatched from the Desktop Manager code base) which – as I mentioned earlier – was the first casualty upon Spaces’ announcement. (I do however feel that I should point out that Tony Arnold – former Virtue Developer – is working on a companion to Spaces, called, HyperSpaces.) So the two freeware options are no longer. How about the shareware side of the house?

I sent a couple of quick emails off to CodeTek (makers of CodeTek VirtualDesktop) and You Software (makers of Desktops) to see what their intentions were on this front. Being that they’re selling their wares and have a user-base that has invested in them, I was glad to get responses that they will continue to bring the fight to Apple’s door with updated versions of their applications for the Leopard platform.

While the forthcoming enhancements to CTVD 4 will bring Universal stability to the application, Bill Goldstein from CodeTek informs me that CTVD 5 will be when the real enhancements and features become available. Meanwhile You Software sees this opportunity as a great one to capitalize on the new visibility that will be brought to the Virtual Desktop concept and will definitely be working to bring more advanced feature-sets to those seeking more than Spaces can offer. At $40 and $30, respectively, they’re clearly not free options when compared to Spaces, but those looking for more control shouldn’t mind too much I suspect.

I think this is a better time than ever for these developers to be coding their hearts out (and encourage any other enterprising and talented developers to jump on the opportunity as well), as Spaces will indeed bring Virtual Desktops to the masses. And when those masses become accustomed to the concept, my guess is that many of them will undoubtedly be hungry for more… Not to mention that fact that the continued competition will hopefully serve as a prodding to Apple to bring added functionality and configurability to their own Spaces application within OS X.

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