Yahoo Buys Up Konfabulator

by , 12:15 AM EDT, July 25th, 2005

Yahoo Inc. has acquired Konfabulator, the software maker who created widgets -- mini applications which monitor weather, sports, news and more -- for the Macintosh in 2003.

Yahoo confirmed the purchase was finalized late last week for an undisclosed price. A Yahoo spokesman confirmed to The Mac Observer early Monday it will continue to develop widgets for the Mac platform.

Yahoo told the Associated Press it plans to expand the range and reach of widgets by creating a number of tools that will allow customers to access Yahoo content via customized widgets, without requiring a browser to see it. In addition, Yahoo plans to give away the Konfabulator software that creates widgets. Konfabulator had been charging US$20 for the software. Anyone who bought version 2.0 of the software since mid-May will be given refunds, said Konfabulator CEO Arlo Rose.

Widgets are becoming more popular, as small, mini JavaScript programs that allow Mac and Windows users to access local weather, stock quotes, traffic information and more from their desktops without having to use an actual Web browser. The large majority of widgets re-feed information from Really Simple Syndication, or RSS feeds, a technology for distributing news on the Web. Many news sites, organizations and Web blogs publish RSS feeds to keep people informed of the latest news, product updates and more.

At present, Konfabulator has available 1042 different widgets for download, many of them produced by individuals who saw a need and created a widget within hours. Apple has 909 widgets available through its Web site for Macintosh users only.

Yahoo is hoping widgets will entice computer users to look at small snippets of content and then click through to more content on its Web pages, thereby selling more advertisements. Yahoo is also hoping it widgets will help increase its current base of 10.1 million subscribers who pay for premium services.

The Yahoo deal "gives us whole new buckets of content to grab stuff from." Mr. Rose said.

Apple began creating their own Dashboard Widgets in June of last year, making it an integral part of Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger'. In introducing widgets -- what Apple first called "gadgets" to not be confused with Konfabulator's version -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs encouraged developers to create widgets using specialized software.

When Apple announced Dashboard Widgets, Konfabulator co-founders Arlo Rose and Perry Clarke, was less than pleased by what he called an "Apple rip-off". Mr. Rose told TMO "It's okay for companies to compete and do products with similar functionality. That's just part of business. What's not okay is for the company making the OS to turn around and give away third-party functionality for free...They have come up with an idea that is a complete rip-off of our product, plain and simple. This could potentially drive us out of business."

Apple denied copying the concept for its widgets from Konfabulator. Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller told CNET News, "The goal (of Dashboard) isn't to be like anything else. It's not his (Mr. Roses') stuff. What we've done is ours."

Mr. Rose and Mr. Clarke went on to release Konfabulator for the Windows platform less than two months after the Apple announcement. Ironically, it could be said that without Apple's decision to also create Widgets, Konfabulator would not have gone ahead and released a Windows version of its product as early as it did and might not have been sold to Yahoo today.