Is Microsoft serious about gadgets?

If Silverlight 2 is Microsoft’s shining new addition to the family (and deservingly so) then gadgets, both Windows Vista Sidebar and web gadgets are the all but forgotten middle children. In this article I pose the question: Has Microsoft all but given up on it’s gadget platforms?

Consider the following:

  1. Many groups within Microsoft have blogs where they talk about what’s going on in the group, give advise on programming, etc, but some groups are more involved with their readers that others. The last post to the Windows Vista Sidebar Blog is dated July 31, 2007 and the Windows Live Gadget Blog is dated June 27, 2006.
  2. Most of the top players in Microsoft’s group (the innovators of web gadgets) have either left the company or moved on to other groups within Microsoft.
  3. At Microsoft’s MIX08 conference in Las Vegas, I did not hear the word "gadget" uttered once by any panel member or during the keynote.
  4. Code Focus magazine that came in the MIX08 goodie bag focused on Windows Live. There were articles on Live Search, Live ID and Live Writer but nothing on or web gadgets.
  5. Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 was released not long ago at MIX08 in Las Vegas. During one of the IE8 sessions I asked Chris Wilson, Platform Architect and long time IE team veteran how the new features of IE8 would effect Vista Sidebar. He didn’t really have a good answer for me. I also asked him if the Windows Vista Sidebar team still exists. His response was "I’m not sure" which prompted several chuckles from the audience. Some have stated online that the Sidebar team has in fact been disbanded.
  6. Over the past year, Google has announced support for Open Social Gadgets and Google Gadgets Ads. During the same period of time, Microsoft’s gadget innovations include (insert sound of crickets chirping here).
  7. And what may be the most telling… there are currently 53 Windows Vista Sidebar bugs listed on Jon Abbott’s unofficial Windows Vista Sidebar bug list. Windows Vista SP1 was released to manufacturing and not one of these bugs has been resolved.

Is it possible that Microsoft is backing off of on the Vista Sidebar gadget platform because of the security risks involved? Sidebar gadgets are prone to security problems and are hard to properly lock down. Many of us learned this the hard way when the Traffic by Live Search Maps gadget that I wrote for Microsoft was taken down for a short time to plug a security hole. Microsoft might be skittish about it’s liability should a third party gadget be breached by a hacker to cause harm to the system.

While the gadget platform seems to have gotten the cold shoulder at Microsoft, gadgets themselves are still alive and ticking. For example, the new version of the Traffic by Live Search Maps gadget is still the most download Microsoft branded gadget download with nearly a quarter of a million downloads. Other groups within Microsoft are advertising their brand as well with dedicated RSS gadgets like the new Channel 10 gadget. So while I’m disappointed with Microsoft’s lack for support for the platforms, I’m happy to see groups with Microsoft still interested in promoting cool new gadgets.