June 28, 2004 2:28 PM PDT

Developer calls Apple's Tiger a copycat

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Apple Computer is predicting that rivals will mimic Mac OS X Tiger, but one developer says it's the new Mac operating system that is doing the copying.

Arlo Rose is outraged at the similarity of Apple's Dashboard, previewed earlier Monday by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, to his Konfabulator, a $25 Macintosh program. Both programs allow easy access to small programs called Widgets, which can perform a number of useful little tasks.

"It's insulting, is what it is," Rose said in a telephone interview. "They could have at least offered to work with us or to buy it."

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Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer
Apple, for its part, maintains that Dashboard is the company's own creation, noting that Widgets have long been a part of Mac OS X and the NextStep OS.

"The goal isn't to be like anything else," Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said in an interview. "It's not his stuff. What we've done is ours."

Rose and co-creator Perry Clarke released Konfabulator in February 2003. "There really wasn't anything like it when we came out." Now, Rose said, a number of copycat programs are on the market.

By treading closely on outside developers, Rose said, Apple risks killing the incentive to write Mac software. "Why should developers want to work on their platform?"

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Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer
The controversy comes as Apple is itself showing a series of posters at the conference here that assume Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., will copy Apple's features for Longhorn, the next version of Windows. Slogans include "Redmond, start your photocopiers."

It is not the first time Mac OS X has stepped on what some see as other's turf. Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., previously expanded its Sherlock search tool to add features such as movie times and yellow pages in a format that closely paralleled a third-party tool called Watson.

Rose is trying to make the best of the situation, taking advantage of the fact that Tiger won't ship until next year.

"Cupertino: Start your photocopiers," reads a newly erected Konfabulator home page. It also asks, "Why wait until the first half of 2005, when you can get the original Dashboard now?"

In the long run, though, Rose knows that he will have a tough time competing with something that is a built-in feature of the operating system.

"We're either going to have to move to another platform or work on some other project."


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Konfabulator Ripped
I agree with the owners of Konfabulator. They have a great
software (although I wouldn't of heard or used it until this
article.) After reading the article I downloaded and started using
the software. It is well written and looks almost identical to the
dashboard feature in tiger. I guess we will have to wait and see
what the folks at apple do next.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I'm not seeing the similarities here.

Yes, both Konfabulator and Dashboard support widgets. That's of course not anything like new with Konfabulator (there have been widget frameworks and environments around for decades). In Konfabulator the widgets sit all over on your desktop or window stack, something which I personally find rather annoying (and which keeps me from using Konfabulator); they just (finally) added a hotkey to bring them all to the top momentarily, but they haven't figured out how to just get the darned things out of my way until I need them. In Dashboard the widgets don't exist until you hit the "magic key", at which time they glide onscreen, let you do yur thing, and then go away. Where Konfabulator is naturally inclined as a dynamic status display widget land, Dashboard looks to be more geared towards those utilities you just have to have close at hand at all times but don't want to sacrifice real estate to keep available.

There is a reasonably finite universe of easy widget ideas (how many times have media player remotes and calendars been done over and over in the past ten years alone?), so I don't think the similarity of widgets (although, I can't seem to find a Konfabulator calculator widget oddly enough) is a mark against Apple here.

The promise of Dashboard is that the API and underlying library will be significantly advanced over the API of Konfabulator. Again, a widget API is hardly new and so you can't fault Apple for making a better one than the K guys.

I don't know. It really all just sounds like sour grapes to me. When you spend all day working on one implementation of a not-altogether-original idea, it is easy to get defensive when someone else puts out a new implementation of that same idea. The proper reaction though, the one which distinguishes the thriving software company from the has-beens, is to take it as a challenge, invent yourself a new niche, and show that you can do better than the other guy.

The K guys could really step up to the plate here and hit a home run, but only if they stop their moaning and actually innovate. Tiger won't ship for another 6-9 months. They've got a huge window to put in cool and useful features, to stabilize their product, and to build a loyal user base. Beyond Tiger's initial release, they'll have the strong advantage of agility (Apple won't likely be releasing a major new version every couple of weeks).

Either you're a developer, or you're a farmer milking his cash cow. Developers develop.
Posted by Tom Dibble (2 comments )
Link Flag
Arlo & Co. can wheedle all they want...
But their big claim to fame at this point is that Apple "ripped
them off..."

How, precisely?

Konfabulator isn't using WebCore (it's running compiled applets
in its own runtime engine). Dashboard widgets can run inside
Safari, meaning folks with a moderate amount of web design
and javascript talent can make Dashboard widgets. Konfabulator
isn't this.

Konfabulator uses the term "Widget." So does Apple. Big deal.

Both look pretty good, with access to OS X's display compositor
for nice drop shadows and transparency and stuff. Unsurprising,
since Konfabulator is leveraging UI services that Apple already
provides in its OS. Do Rose & co. honestly expect Apple NOT to
make their own widgets look good?

...but the kicker: Konfabulator didn't invent the concept. Apple
did. Desk Accessories have been around since the earliest
beginnings of the Macintosh.

The gripe here seems to be that Apple didn't pay Rose a tidy
sum to license Konfabulator (which would have been inane,
anyway, since Konfabulator isn't all that revolutionary).
Posted by (7 comments )
Link Flag
Apple copies 3rd party developer -- oh the irony!
This reminds me of Apple accusing MS of copying their GUI that they copied from Xerox PARC.

How different in concept is what Rose did with Dashboard from Pointcast or one of a dozen other previous ideas?

Of course, it does speak a bit to the hypocrisy of Apple to do exactly what they thought MS was evil for doing to them ... then again, they lost the lawsuit against MS -- if you can't beat'em ....
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In all fairness...
I've downloaded Konfabulator several times, hoping to find some
use of it - it garned a ton of praise, and had lots of eye-candy
appeal. It never clicked for me - I found it to be a resource hog,
and many of its widgets to be unreliable. In fairness, Dashboard
couldn't have duped Konspose (which itself must be influenced
by Apple's Expose) as they were both just recently announced.
Hopefully Dashboard will actually be useful
Posted by (54 comments )
Link Flag
No Rip-Off from PARC
Apple paid for the CUI concept. Maybe Xerox sold it too cheaply,
but it was sold, not stolen. Can't say the same for anything MS
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Read the "How old are you?" thread...
Read the "How old are you?" thread please!
Posted by Stefano Lesandrini (6 comments )
Link Flag
Widgets anyone...
You would think if Apple wanted to distance themself from any criticism of borrowing or stealing someone elses ideas they'd call the little "applets" something other than widgets. It's almost like somebody copying their book report directly from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Also it's very ironic that they would display this technology at a developer's conference where they are singing the praises of their OS and asking these folks that have paid for the privelage to attend this conference to continue to write programs for their platform.
Posted by LarryInAz (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Widgets anyone...
Widgets is a generic term for small applications that run in the
background the k guys didnt invent the term its been around in
linux for ages and apple had every right to create there own
solidly integrated interface for those applications (and from what
ive heard theres kicks the pants off of k's). As for apple
developers all of them would have had the common sense to
think of this as nothing more than what it is..a minor
improvement of the os that makes an integrated platform for
already common "applictionettes",
Posted by atmca (11 comments )
Link Flag
What's the beef?
So let me get this straight...

Konfabulator 1.7 is released with it's biggest new feature being a
copy of Apple's Expose. Days later Apple announces Dashboard,
which is a copy of Konfabulator.

So what's the problem here?
Posted by garyhud (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple invented "Widgets" -- not Konfabulator
In 1984 they were called "Desk Accessories".

Konfabulator is cool (I use it), but it's not an original concept.

Posted by mpmchugh (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
maybe Apple used the concept widget first, but...
Konfabulator brought the widget to the state that they are today.

Apple dilutes their own credibility even further than what it was
after they ripped off Karelia's Watson. I agree that they weaken
the incentive to develop software when they don't even have the
courtesy to acknowledge software that closely resembles a new

Even if Apple actually did develop this in some dark closet with
no knowledge of Konfabulator or Watson, they owe those
developers a tip of the hat.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Solving The Who Invented Widgets Debate
Hi Everyone:

Widgets, two years since this article published, have become popular add-ons, especially on web sites like MySpace. Here's an updated article on the web site Web Content Professionals,
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webcontentprofessionals.org/2006/12/are-widgets-traffic-midgets.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.webcontentprofessionals.org/2006/12/are-widgets-traffic-midgets.html</a>

Perhaps the debate of who really 'invented' widgets will never be solved. But we can still do our best to explain it, from the start to finish.

Please visit
and leave your Comments for others to reviews.

My web site, <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://webcontentprofessionals.org," target="_newWindow">http://webcontentprofessionals.org,</a> focuses on issues, news and trends that effect web content professionals, including desingers, writers, marketing pros, search engine optimization consultants, web project managers and anyone else interested in the world of web content creation, distribution and functionality.

Was it Apple or Konfabulator that invented widgets?


<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://webcontentprofessionals.org" target="_newWindow">http://webcontentprofessionals.org</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://indierockcafe.com" target="_newWindow">http://indierockcafe.com</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://indierockcafe.typepad.com/" target="_newWindow">http://indierockcafe.typepad.com/</a>
Posted by indierockcafe (13 comments )
Link Flag
After reading Mr. Rose's reaction, I'll be asking for a refund on
Korn-y-fabulator and buying Panic's new release. Mr. Rose
must be from a communist country perhaps? He wants to be the
only player with his product, guess he's afraid of competition.
Heck, can you imagine a world with only one OS, only one
financial software, word processing, presentation, only one
computer in the store, 'cause there is only one store to choose
from.... Grow up ARLO! I've uninstalled Kornfabulator.
Posted by sandman619 (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How old are you?
My dear Ina Fried (Win-Cnet columnist) and Sam Kass, I don't
know how old are you but reading your articles/comment you
look like teenagers.
I would like to remember you that the Desktop Accessories, aka
DA, quite lost in the night of times, were an original idea of the
fabulous team that developed the venerable System 1. When?
On January, 1984 dear milk suckers. Those original DA were:
Calculator, Alarm Clock, Puzzle, Key Caps, Control Panel,
Notepad, and Scrapbook.
I'm sorry, Konfobulator didn't invented the DA, they only --and I
like/love how they did it-- implemented, in a more fashionable
way, what Andy Hertzfeld (at first),  Jef Raskin, Bruce Horn,  Bud
Tribble,  Steve Capps, Bob Belleville and  Bill Atkinson invented.

Never speak before having known!

/Stefano Lesandrini
Posted by Stefano Lesandrini (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for the DA Reminder
It's been so long, I'd forgotten about Desktop Accessories. You
are absolutely right. This was, for me, the original genesis of
Posted by Greg Sparkman (82 comments )
Link Flag
Released In 1984 January, developed earlier
The Finder (Mac OS 1.0) was released in January, but developed earlier. I was working in an Apple dealer from spring 1984 onwards in sales and tech support and I remember receiving a disk that had a Turkey Day Finder. It was the developed version from Thanksgiving of 1983 November, a couple months earlier than the released 1.0 version. A number of the final DA's were not included on the Turkey Day Finder, although I have no idea if they were left off or removed or hadn't been written yet.

It was interesting to see the development of that earlier beta version with the released version (1.0) and the subsequent versions up to version 9.

The great thing about the Mac, for the end user, was that the intereface didn't change with each revision, it simply got new features that were added in that added to the whole system. Once you learned it, it was easy.

Windows on the other hand changed with EVERY version of Windows as to how it operated. The industry loved it cause every end user had to relearn how it operated. Any wonder why everyone went to Windows?

Posted by TLX (1 comment )
Link Flag
Policy of Apple bashing
..Has been the course in News.com. I believe you are correct
about their age, because if they were older, they would do it
more cunningly, masking it better with professionalism and even
taking occasionally Apples side - thus making it more
Of course you cant count out the possibility, that this is all
intentional in order to rouse heated discussion and attention.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Please re-read the article
Konfabulator is not a set of DAs. It is an XML parser, javascript interpretor and a runtime engine for building small script based programs (check their website). In the rush to defend Apple from the young, you have misinterpreted the application and accused Apple of only just now preparing to add a feature they have always had to the next release of OSX.
Posted by IR-G (1 comment )
Link Flag
Tiger Konfabulator
Apple has simply got religion and is very Biblical.
Read 1 Kings 21.

Posted by NonEgo (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?" target="_newWindow">http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?</a>

Apple didn't steal this concept, look or feel. It's been theirs
since 1981 and has appeared in every Mac OS except OS X since
1984. Until Exposé was developed, Apple didn't have a good
way to re-implement it. They tried docklets, they tried toolbar
apps, nothing caught on. Konfabulator got the presentation
right, but it was never their idea.
Posted by MonkeyTrainer (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hate to disagree with developers, but Konfabulator is just a 2nd
or 3rd generation enhancement of a concept invented at Apple
20 years ago. There seems to be some crying over spilled milk
going on with the developer, but the bottom line is "YOU didn't
invent widgets".... Now, go whine about something else. You
need to get original and not merely be in the business of fine
tuning the inventions of others. If you don't, you're in for a lot
of disappointment in the Software industry because there will
always be someone who has a different way to do the same
basic tasks.
Posted by acollins94 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
At least MSFT offers to buy you out first
Just like Lucca Brazi and Marlon Brando's character offered to buy out the singer's contract first before coming back with the gun, at least Microsoft offers to buy you out before muscling you out.

MSFT and the Mob have known it's cheaper in the long run to do it that way.

I guess Apple is new to the "problem fixing" business.
Posted by plutosdad (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What point are you trying to make?...At least M$ steals ideas
For some reason you have an unfounded problem with apple
but at least your smart enough to not say anything genuinely
positive about M$'s idea stealing because you know that would
be ridiculous
Posted by atmca (11 comments )
Link Flag
Konfabulator riped from StarDock!
StarDock has been making widgets since OS2, these are the guyes that started all of it. I run both Windows and OS-X, and I wish that StarDock released there software for Mac! The guyes at Konfabulator need to give dues where they are due. Dont say that Apple ripped you off when you got everything from StarDock!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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