A Brief History of Windows Sidebar
One of the questions we’re often asked here at PDC is, “What is the history of Windows Sidebar?” The concept behind Microsoft's interpretation of Gadgets for the Windows Desktop has a long history, dating back to Microsoft research projects and prior:
Microsoft “Sideshow*” Research Project (2000-2001)
While work started prior, in September 2001, a team of Microsoft researchers published a paper entitled, “Sideshow: Providing peripheral awareness of important information” including findings of their project. From the abstract:
A fundamental issue with user interfaces is how to help users stay aware of information without being overly intrusive or distracting. In this paper we describe Sideshow, a peripheral awareness interface designed to help users stay aware of people and information. We present data from a field trial of Sideshow where several hundred employees within our company used Sideshow over a seven-month period of time. The data indicate that Sideshow’s design accomplishes the goal of providing awareness of important information without being overly distracting.
The research paper provides screenshots that bear a striking resemblance to the Windows Sidebar. The paper is a good read for anyone thinking about Gadget development. For folks who have visited Microsoft campuses, you may recall the posters in elevator hallways and Sidebar running on many employees desktops. Technically one of the first teams to implement this concept
*Internal code-name, not directly related to the official, “Windows SideShow™” auxiliary display feature in Windows Vista.
Microsoft “Longhorn” Alpha Release (2003)
In 2003, Microsoft unveiled a new feature called, “Sidebar” at the Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference. This feature took the best concepts from Microsoft Research and applied them to a new platform code-named, “Avalon”, now formally known as Windows Presentation Foundation. Using WPF, you can build applications with high-fidelity graphics and multimedia, scalable vector-based graphics and hardware acceleration. This was an interesting concept to many developers, however Microsoft listened to feedback from developers that they would like more breadth of support for development platforms such as support for DHTML.
Microsoft Windows Vista PDC Release (2005)
While removed from public eye during the Longhorn plan change in 2004, a small team was formed to continue to incubate Windows Sidebar as a concept, dating back to its roots in 2000/2001 as a research exercise. Now Windows Sidebar will be a feature of Windows Vista. Feedback from customers and hardware industry dynamics are being taken into account, particularly adding support for DHTML-based Gadgets to support a broader range of developer and designer, enhanced security infrastructure, and better support for Widescreen (16:10, 16:9) displays. Additionally a new feature in Windows Sidebar is support for hosting of Web Gadgets which can be hosted on sites such as Start.com or run locally. Gadgets that run on the Windows desktop will also be available for Windows XP customers – more details to be shared here in the future.
Windows Sidebar will be available to Beta testers around the Windows Vista Beta 2 timeframe (later this year).
So there you have it, a quick backgrounder on Windows Sidebar. Keep the constructive feedback coming. ;)
Ed. Note: Updated the intro sentence based on feedback. The concept of mini-applications has a long history in software dating back to the 1980's and probably before. Good ideas are often interpreted in different ways. As one person noted, MSN Explorer introduced a feature called "MSN My Stuff" in MSN 6 (2001) based in part on the same whitepaper above, renamed "MSN Dashboard" in 2002, a "mini-app" concept which was interpreted much differently from Apple's Dashboard feature. Each has their strengths and audiences. Our goal is to improve on our vision of the concept for Windows and the Web. A good idea is a good idea. Thanks for the feedback- we do listen :).
posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 5:05 AM