February 2, 2006 12:55 PM PST

Sidebar on display in next Vista preview

As more computer users move to larger, wide-screen monitors, Microsoft is staking a claim to that added real estate.

Windows Vista, the update to the operating system due this year, will add a feature called Sidebar. Sidebar is a small panel at the side of the monitor that can be used to view photo slide shows, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and other small programs, dubbed gadgets.

While DVD movies have popularized wide-screen displays, Windows chief Jim Allchin said there are a lot of uses for the extra pixels.


What's new:
February's preview version of Windows Vista will include all of the OS's planned features, including a panel housing mini-applications.

Bottom line:
The move is Microsoft's pitch to get more visibility on the desktop, among consumers and companies both.

More stories on this topic

"That's why Sidebar is something important," Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's platform, products and services division, said in an interview last week. "You will be able to put it to the side and just watch it on the periphery, and the wide screen allows this."

Sidebar is one of a number of features that Microsoft has talked about as part of Vista, but has yet to include in external test versions. The next Community Technology Preview (CTP) release, which is planned for February, is slated to include all of Vista's features including Sidebar.

"This CTP that we are doing in this quarter will have all the features that we had planned to put in the product," Allchin said. Other features expected to debut in the February test version include a new migration tool aimed at making it easier for people moving their systems to Vista from Windows XP.

Microsoft is targeting the February test release at businesses, aiming to get early adopter companies to try out the software on a few hundred PCs each. A consumer-oriented test release, planned for the second quarter of this year, will be made available to "hundreds of thousands, maybe millions" of customers, Allchin said. The final version of Vista is slated to arrive in time to be on PCs sold in the 2006 holiday season.

Sidebar was part of the original Longhorn vision as first outlined by Microsoft at a developer conference in October 2003. However, the feature was absent from many test builds, leading to speculation that it had been scrapped. Recently though, it has been featured prominently in discussions of Vista features, including Chairman Bill Gates' keynote speech at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


The concept of having small programs to handle a variety of tasks is not new, said Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

"It goes way back to when Borland had a program called sidekick for the PC," Gartenberg said. Apple Computer popularized the concept with the built-in desk accessories that came on a Mac, he said. "It made sense at a time when (one could) only run one program."

What makes it still compelling, even in the age of multiple open programs, is the ability to see information at a glance, without having to stop working in a primary document. That information could be anything from sales data to stock quotes to family photos.

"Keeping it persistently available is a pretty big deal," Gartenberg said. "I can position things so I can be working on my e-mail or word processing and still have the information available."

Although Sidebar is mainly seen as a consumer feature, Microsoft has talked up the tool as a way for workers to have fingertip access to key information such as graphical representations of real-time business data.

In addition, Allchin said it offers a nice way to provide alerts to people. These can be sent, for example, via RSS or gadgets, which are mini-applications that reside on the Sidebar.

"You can have nice--some people might say interruptions, or things that are bothering you," Allchin said. "On the other hand, it's a way to keep noticing what's happening in your business."

The notion of gadgets is similar in concept to the widget idea that Apple uses in the Dashboard feature of Mac OS X and in the Yahoo Widget Engine, which is based on the Konfabulator program Yahoo acquired in July. Google also has a very similar concept, which it also calls Sidebar, that is part of its Google Desktop download.

Microsoft hopes to spur use of gadgets well beyond the sidebar. In Vista, the same small applications can be used on the desktop display itself and also on the secondary display on the lid of some notebooks--a feature Microsoft has dubbed SideShow. Microsoft also wants people to run gadgets on their Windows Live pages.

Like Yahoo and Apple, Microsoft has been courting developers, posting information on a special Web site.

The key is, in all three cases, that such add-ons are relatively easy to program.

"The technology to build these is fairly simple," Gartenberg said. "It doesn't require advanced development techniques."

Allchin said that other technology companies should also start planning for wide-screen monitors to become the norm.

"We think it is going to become standard on pretty much almost all monitors. It is just a matter of time," he said. "Web sites should be updated to be able to expand to take advantage of it, there's only some of them that do that now."


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Is it compatible with the Mac widgets?
The Linux equivalent is. Presumably it's not too
different (though probably bound to one XML
dialect rather than have multiple bindings).
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Probably not with the OS X Widgets....
... But another set, PC compatible, is available from Yahoo. They are
the old Konfabulator series with a new version, and new Widgets.
There is also an OS X version so everyone gets to play.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
OS/2 sidebar
The original? <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://pages.prodigy.net/michaln/history/os221/od_fold.gif" target="_newWindow">http://pages.prodigy.net/michaln/history/os221/od_fold.gif</a>
Posted by frankwick (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OS/2, hahahahahahahahahahahaha.
Don't worry, the future's still in OS/2! *Really*.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds like Google Sidebar
Microsoft is so orignal these days. I have a wide screen display and use google desktop. I don't see how this is any diffferent other than being Microsoft branded..
Posted by dlapham (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsofts business plan
Do what Google does.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
pay attention
The sidebar was origionally in windows longhorn circa 2002/3, MS did it before google
Posted by sidewinder (41 comments )
Link Flag
More eye candy from Softie!
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmm.... A "sidebar" on the display...
How innovative it is. How original it is. How much like Apple's
Dock/Dashboard it is.
Posted by Sampsonite0 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because you know apple didn't copy the concept for Konfab which didn't copy the concept from DesktopX
Posted by sidewinder (41 comments )
Link Flag
get over it
How much should you care if you use mac and aren't going to use Vista anyway?
Posted by blaineg (5 comments )
Link Flag
I am not sure I need that. In fact, instead of implementing such features, why does MS not use its resources to fix the myriad of bugs it has allowed for years to flourish?
Posted by marc_90292 (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The article did not say that no bugs were fixed. Of course bugs have been fixed. And, I'm not surprised that you "aren't sure" if you can use the sidebar... Remember that Linux responds to the demans of users, who must first see or use a feature elsewhere before demanding in in Linux. Microsoft and other OS companies actually try to anticipate the needs of users. Don't want it? Don't use it. Clearly, MS had the opportunity to evaluate the value of such a feature by looking at other systems that have been released more recently than XP. Have you used OS/X?
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Completely agree.
Because their hope is that by "innovating" and "releasing new synergetic products marketed at the dynamic recooperating market schmoozelkekekekeke" that we'll forget about all the bugs in Windows which they've had *over 10 years to fix*.

There are still bugs in XP which existed in Windows 95. There's zero interest to fix them; instead, the focus will be on Vista. And with Vista, I bet we'll see a whole new set of bugs which will never get fixed, rinse lather repeat...
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
Simple answer
&gt; why does MS not use its resources to fix the myriad of bugs it has allowed for years to flourish?

1) Bug fixes usually come in service packs.
2) New features, in new OS versions.

What piece of software do users pay for?
Posted by JoseCtesArg (11 comments )
Link Flag
you find is hard to believe, but ms actually produces better quality code than many others in the industry. Also number of exploits is not necessarily corelated to numbers of bugs, or flaws. in case you haven't noticed, apple as well as all software vendors issue fixes regulary, manitimes even for critical flaws. it just that they don't get exploited, whether because the target size is not that big, or for *nixes for instance, the users are well educated and follows safe computing pratices that would mitigate if not stop any potential attack. you may actualy give some credit to ms. since winxp sp2, exploits and attacks are becoming more prevalent on other common software: winamp, apple quicktime, realplayer, norton av,...and the list goes on. bug simply can never be totaly eliminated from code, that is as long as it's done by humans, IMO.
Posted by Pascoli (74 comments )
Link Flag
The WMF vulnerability
And probably others that haven't been exploited. Yet.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So basically you don't actually have an example of a known bug that was in Windows 95, is still in XP, and that Microsoft has "no interest" in fixing. Basically you're full of **** and you don't know what you're talking about. Thanks for trying, though.
Posted by Azio (35 comments )
Link Flag
Vista preview
Here's a sight with a tongue in cheek preview of the "NEW" features of Windows Vista

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tauquil.com/archives/2006/01/06/re-introducing-the-real-windows-vista/" target="_newWindow">http://tauquil.com/archives/2006/01/06/re-introducing-the-real-windows-vista/</a>
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It looks like XP
WEll, personaly, I was looking forward to something that didn't look like windows 95, but I was sad to see that it looks the same, the same graphical idea.
Posted by jzsaxpc (43 comments )
Link Flag
Oh my word. IE 7 beta is going to have tabs and now semi-
translucent "Gadgets" to be included in Vista ... whenever it gets
released. I cannot fathom how Microsoft became the huge
company they are. They have a long history of taking other
people's concepts, implementing them WORSE than what they are
trying to knock-off, and doing it years behind the curve. We're now
in the 6th cursed year of XP and even the future, in-the-pipe stuff
from M$ is a bigger yawn than what has already been available on
other platforms for years.
Posted by krusty283 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm getting a MacBook Pro
No longer do I have to deal with crappy winbloze asta la vista.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
Why microsoft is successful?
1) Mac =&gt; Lock in to a single hardware vendor.
Excellent OS. 20 to 30% Expensive to

2) Unix =&gt; MultiVendor Expensive Hardware,
Expensive OS. Not easy for a common

3) Linux =&gt; Multivendor, many diff processors,
poor games support. Still not easy
and seemless for a common user.

4) Windows =&gt; Multivendor, cheap hardware, good
game support. Issues with
Virus,spyware and malware. Issues
can be mitigated with keeping up
with the updates. Most users
need to buy os (Redhat or suse).
Cost of these vendor supported
linux is almost same as windows.

Corporations chose multivendor pcs for whatever business reason (may be microsoft marketing or lack of altenatives or even stupidity). For corporations to migrate to any new platform involves spending ton of money and lots of risks. It is a slow process.

Microsoft always provided a consistent support to corporations. Info executives microsoft probably thought 'well I don't like microsoft but, atleast it will not go belly up'. Corporations have also learnt to tame the issues with Windows OS.

Just my two cents.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
Desktop Sidebar
Desktop Sidebar have done this for years, even before Google Desktop: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.desktopsidebar.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.desktopsidebar.com/</a>
Posted by JoseCtesArg (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Free Desktop Sidebar
I've been using this program for awhile now and so far I really like it and haven't found any problems with it. I only use it about once a week since then all I do is read up on all the new technology news and gossip and then don't get anything done. It also can give you %'s on CPU usage, Disk Usage, Memory Usage, Swap File and Net work quick stats. Then I beleive top 2 programs that are currently using the most resources every second.


Posted by Sbvmax (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One fault....
... you have to use IE to get it.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Windows Vista is a copycat version
of Mac OS X. Sidebar my ass...it's called a dock.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
completely different
the purpose of the dock and the purpose of the sidebar are almost completely different. the Windows equivalent of the dock happens to be the taskbar
Posted by Bobman (114 comments )
Link Flag
holy hell cant they do ANYTHING original?!!
basicly, microsoft is producing "Tiger XP - Crap Version For Windows". seriously, they've attempted to copy every aspect of the mac os x because apple innovates while microsoft modifies (their competitors superior products)

and here they are yet again, they settle for a dumbed down version of apple's ingenious concept. even down to the specifics: widgets that blend with their background becomes "gadgets"(of course it sounds uglier, you didnt expect msft to come up with a good name did u?), they are going to be downloadable, they show on darkened translucent area, they float above your desktop, they are written using javascript, they use png graphics..

and yet, they dont manage to replicate. apple's solution remains much better and more useful and of course, more user friendly. and, apple's dashboard doesnt get in the way of your work.

comon microsoft, put your 100,000 employees and billions of dollars to real use.
Posted by assman (1101 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Widgets are not mac's oirginal idea either
Apple stole dashboard/widgets idea from a small company called konfabulator (now owned by yahoo).

In software terms you only steal if you have a patent!!!

If you don't have a patent then you have not stolen it. You just made it popular using someones idea.

When it comes to idea stealing Apple and microsoft are in the same boat!!!

GUI innovation - XEROX
Eternet innovation - XEROX
Networking/internet - DARPA
OS x - BSD unix!! - Darwin Project
PC - Concept - XEROX!!

Apple killed lot of companies that provided niche products to Apple OS (Mac Os etc).

Apple's credit is making it appealing.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
Pointcast anyone?
Is it just me, or does this sound a little bit like a warmed over version of Pointcast? OK, granted, Pointcast went boom when the bubble burst (if not before), but its another attempt at utilizing the failed idea of pushing information to the desktop. People like to surf, not the other way around.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Ahh the Old Dashboard of Old
Which comes to my mind in the old Windows 3.1 which was an add on. Pointcast was an additional web site program. As things progress how we seem to return to them. Many computer companies made simular programs which did most of the same functions. Multi-casting or multi-tasking is not new, but old technology.
Posted by electorny (19 comments )
Link Flag
Am I the only one who hates this?
There are EXACTLY two things on my desktop. One is the taskbar and the other is the recycle bin. I don't want this trash cluttering up my screen. Why are they so excited about this thing?
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't care for it either. I generally don't like anything that robs me
of screen real estate (though I realize you don't have to have the
sidebar as the topmost layer). I vastly prefer the OS X Dashboard
implementation to the unimaginative Sidebar.

Having said that, though, Sidebar *does* do one thing that
Dashboard doesn't, and that I wish it would- the ability to move a
"gadget" from the Sidebar and onto the Desktop. I have two
Dashboard widgets I'd like to be able to do that with.
Posted by The Cubelodyte (19 comments )
Link Flag
There are times where it's useful...
I've a position where I need to monitor a
compute cluster from my Linux workstation, so I
do maintain a desktop session that, besides
having handy links to the cluster management
console, a root console for the cluster, and
some other tools, there are a number of monitors
implemented as widgets that report the state of
the cluster environment.

It's nice to have them inconspicuously adorning
the desktop so that I can simply switch to it to
get a quick view of what's happening. Rather
than a dozen applications reporting various
things, its a simple arrangement of desktop
widgets. The task bar is clean, window layout
doesn't take them into account, etc. Mind you,
though, I don't keep it running in my regular
working desktop session.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Because people like it....
The same type of stuff has been available for
Linux desktops for several years. it's very

Some people like their desktops cluttered and
some (like you and I) like them lean and mean.

Frankly I'd like to get the Recycle Bin off the
Windows Desktop too (and put it on the taskbar
(as the "Trash" is in KDE and OSX).

There is no need for any icons on the desktop.
It's really an inefficient place to put them.
Why? Because most of the time you need them, you
have to minimize at least one window to get to
them. They belong on launchers, docks or menus,
not on the desktop.

The sidebar isn't a bad idea, if you really feel
you need it. I don't and I'm sure it will be
optional (or easily turned off anyway).
Posted by angrykeyboarder (136 comments )
Link Flag
how do they copy exactly? MS announced and demoed a sidebar concept way before Tiger (or whatever it is called) was released itno the wild. MS did not implement because they were still pushing XP and the sidebar was a Longhorn trick.

Seriously, I like OSX, but some you apple fan boys get clouded judgment and do whatever it takes to bash MS.
Posted by frankwick (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's face it
The majority of features included in OSX and Windows were not invented by Apple or MS but by smaller companies and universities. Whenever either of these companies adds a new feature, fan boys from both sides come out flaming over which company did it first and the answer is usually neither.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
OSX is more like Windows. I loved Mac OS8. Apple ruined the Mac.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
Well it sure is pretty....
but how does it run?
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple dude is designing Vista interface
Funny... I recall reading about a former Apple designer (he may
have designed the titanium powerbooks) who was hired by MS to
make Vista look stylish -- redo the windows, add the alpha effects,
etc. If you're less lazy than I am, you can probably find a the story.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Capps et al, have been in MS for a while
Much of the design work of Windows is done by people who have also done the design work for Apple.

Steve Capps (inner workings of the GUI), Susan Kare (Windows icons)all did the same work for Apple.

What's scary is that Apple has figured out that all those simultaneously multi-tasking "features" really need the genuine multi-threaded, multi-tasking core of Unix, while Windows just keeps on adding this stuff to an already overextended monolithic core.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
To Everyone Here
Truth be told, if MS hadn't spent so much effort in presenting Vista as "for the first time", "innovative", "prototype built for them", etc. ... in other words, acting as if they created "it", and did "it" first ... then we wouldn't be arguing and picking sides.

Our banter, and bickering is a direct result from this type of marketing. Especially when personal computer users have all of these capabilities now, and are using them in other operating systems.

The people who are inflamed by Microsofts ingenious presentations, are those who use these systems daily, and are trying to figure out what the heck is new about Vista.

All of us, and yes, even those of you who are dedicated to Microsoft, dearly want/need them to fix their current problems and quit dumping them on us. We don't even get enough time to develop, and use a Microsoft system long enough before they break something, or replace something with new bugs, then impose more costs on us to keep pace. Which is why I and many others use multiple systems.

While Linux, Unix, MacOS, OSX have had updates as well, they are not as often, nor have such a negative impact as Microsofts constant releases and upgrades have incurred on us. Yeah, simple solution, don't use them. Guess what, it is not that simple, as that would require Corporations, Government agencies, home users, to simultaneously to quit using their products. Nor do I advocate that, as much as I am not a Microsoft fan.

The responsibility is Microsofts to do a better job, as requested by its customers (on a constant basis), and quit being deaf, dumb, and blind to the obvious. With a few less bugs, most of us would simply shut up.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where have you been hiding?
apple is the one that pops an os every year or so. i mean do you remember when os x came out? apple is at something like the fourth itteration of it. win xp however has not seen an update for close to five years now. i can you say this in good faith about ms?
Posted by Pascoli (74 comments )
Link Flag
shorthorn/ windoze visa or vista
What a joke, shorthorn does nothing but steal there ideas from linux and other nix systems. Windows will never be stable because of its poor design. IE7 will be no better than anyother version of MS because they continue to build into there core componets of the kernel. Fedora is a bleeding-edge distro, but I get patches ASAP. SP2 is still a warehouse for viruses, rootkits, spyware and adware.
Posted by solarflair (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stupid user base
I run two computers side by side. One running suse 10 and, the other, win xp. I enjoy using both, the win computer is more my gaming machine while I do serious work on the linux distro. I don't care if the new features are copied, I just like that they'll be there and I will use them - as will millions of others. If it works and people like it, put it in.
Believe it or not, in my many years of computing, I have never had a virus - on either machine. I effectively keep off spyware and adware. At most, I have to delete some annoying tracking cookies now and then. How do I manage this? I am intelligent. The large spread of viruses on win systems is mostly because of stupid users (not entirely), not because of Microsoft. Microsoft, unlike linux, has a very large stupid user base, who will install anything on their machines and open any attachment offering a nudie pic. No matter what os you use, just be intelligent and you will be fine.
Posted by rick7069 (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The computing age has long grown past its adolesence where hobbyists, and developers were in the majority.

Your statement would be perfectly valid for that time. Computers have become household appliances, and essential business tools.

Think logistically. Having a tool/appliance that requires a training to maintain, while another one does not, does not help much around the house, or office. That is an additional cost, in terms of real money, and quality of life. For some reason, people are funny about those things.

Bottom line, they should not have to worry about such things as there computers level of vunerability when they can use one without that worry. And they are slowly becoming acutely aware of that.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Who cares about originality?
I don't care who invented what. "originality" is not a quality most people care about in their OSes. I just want the functionality.

That being said, MS has so many more users than Apple that they HAVE to be conservative in the types of changes they make and when they make them.
Posted by (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who cares???
Sorry but your comment has to be addressed.


If people did not get credit and just reward for originality, the only people who can afford to create things for humanity need to be both rich enough not to care and also just so happen to be altruistic. This is a very rare combination and humanity will not benefit from such an arrangement.

Without encouragement to be original, there can be no innovation.

Most of the Macintosh users support Apple because they know where the good ideas come from and are concerned the right people aren't being rewarded. If Apple died, there would be no more Macs and we are then going to be forced to use Windows (not that we aren't already at the office but at least we can go home to our Macs).

Internet Explorer is getting a bit better only because of Firefox, and people pumped their own money and time into giving Firefox the publicity it deserves.
Posted by npxzbebq (78 comments )
Link Flag
The Market Will
The only way for these theives and morons to be more
responsible and to listen to (their) customers is by taking their
customers away. The market speaks, and it will make these A-
holes with their constant buffet of garbage finally wake up. And
happily we are seeing that started in the EU and elsewhere.
Their dominance has seen the end - and it's name is open
Posted by dlgeezer (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Been There, Done That. How About New & More Usefull Gadgets?
Oversized clocks, RSS feeds, MP3 controls, come on! This can all be downloaded and added to Windows XP. How about something more compelling and usefull like a way to better organize and categorize cluttered icons on your desktop? Why take up 10% of your screen and use up more RAM unless it helps organize things better?
Posted by Aftermath_360 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
All I see this doing is replicating the functionality of Yahoo Widgets. I tried those a while ago, and the slow-down of the computer was more than the widgets were worth.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
Mac Users Are Uneducated Fanboys In This Matter
For starters the functionality of a sidebar was present in Windows long before Apple provided it. They were called Desktop Components, and they were a standard part of Active Desktop bundled with IE 4.0 back in 1996/1997. Does that make Microsoft first? No. Other systems had a similar feature, prior to. But it was the first to use CDF (read: precursor to RSS, XML-driven technology) to deploy live/syndicated content to desktop mini-applications.

Second, the comments about being a step to late and taking 5 years to develop... You're kidding me...right? Vista was a complete rewrite in 5 years. OSX borrowed the underlying system from NextStep (because that's how it was originally capitalized back in 1985), BSD, and Mach. For all practical purposes, OSX took 13 years just to hit the server market with a user interface add-on and compatibility layer, and another 4 to hit the desktop market. And you're gloating about 5 years for a complete system rewrite that does have a number of similar features to OSX? Not even realizing they (conceptually) were present (although perhaps not widely used/explored) in several previous versions of Windows...before Apple? Meanwhile crying foul because of the apparent "rip" of a technological concept?

If the concept of Desktop Components - driven by CDF weren't ripped from Microsoft - you'd probably have neither Widget, nor blog to show your nearsightedness on.
Posted by droby10 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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