Where is the Desktop Widget Innovation?


In all the developer attention paid to mobile, Facebook and web-based applications, "desktop widgets" have been the big loser. They were thought to be a major selling point when Microsoft Vista was launching - and in part because Vista was not a success, and in part because they are inherently not viral (and we now live in a viral world), there has been no significant innovation or movement in the desktop widget space. In fact, the same batch of widgets from my first developer install of Vista years ago remains the most popular and useful widgets: calendar, clock, Weatherbug, RSS and eBay. As I set up my new Windows 7 machine yesterday (Dell Inspiron Zino HD = awesome), I was struck by the lack of innovation, creativity and inventory. I certainly understand it - if you had to develop against Facebook, Android, iPhone or the desktop, there is a clear fourth place for most companies / brands. The most important factor is the viral nature of Facebook and mobile - and the available toolsets / APIs to increase virality and therefore distribution. Nevertheless, the desktop represents something very valuable and important: persistence. Mobile applications can leverage push notifications (and other hooks) to encourage engagement - but the desktop is, by definition, always there. For the right applications (weather, calendaring, etc), this is an opportunity. Think about the recent Google Chrome extensions and how quickly developers produced great applications... in a Chrome world and a Chrome OS, what if they were also desktop widgets? They would be able to function similarly and it would be another distribution lever for the developers.