Solved: The case of the missing .Mac widgets
Back in April of 2005, Apple released the much-awaited Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" OS. One of the big new features of Tiger was Dashboard. The overlay feature supported Widgets, mini-apps that were the descendants of Mac OS 9 Desk Accessories, and that some might consider the precursors to modern iOS apps.
Dashboard widgets were (and still are) fairly useful tools, and some pretty cool eye candy to boot. But the number of widgets that shipped with Tiger were limited, and many hoped Apple would quickly release additional widgets. Apple eventually did add more widgets with the release of Mac OS X 10.4.4, but that release didn't happen until January 2006. Apple did, however, plan to release some additional widgets to select Mac users before 10.4.4 shipped...
If you were a .Mac member (now known as MobileMe) in mid-2005, you may recall a certain call-out on the .Mac Member's Central page that stated "Members Exclusive Widgets - Coming Soon!" The promise of additional Apple-made widgets set Dashboard fanboys drooling. Months passed, however, as the message remained on the .Mac Members Central site, but the widgets had yet to appear. And they never would.
In the end the member exclusive .Mac widgets failed to materialize without any explanation from Apple; eventually all mention of the member-exclusive widgets was removed from the .Mac page. Many wondered just what had happened to the elusive exclusive widgets, but no answers ever materialized...until now. I thought I'd finally take the time to close this small chapter of in the book of Apple mysteries.
In September 2005 (when I worked for Apple) I was attending an event on Apple's campus. On one of our breaks, I was in Café Mac and bumped into one of the .Mac project managers at the time. I asked the PM what the deal was with those missing widgets.
The answer? At the time of the Tiger launch there was an Apple intern working with the .Mac team. The intern said he could whip up some exclusive .Mac widgets to help capitalize on the Dashboard craze and hopefully spur sales of .Mac -- a very important metric for the company since every .Mac sale was virtually 100% margin. The program managers gave the intern the go-ahead and added the "Members Exclusive Widgets - Coming Soon!" call-out to the .Mac Member's Central page.Then something happened. For whatever reason the intern left sooner than planned and no one ran with the exclusive widgets project.
I laughed at the program manager's story because it surprised me that something (even relatively simple) like exclusive widgets for .Mac members wouldn't require a little more thought or discussion than just the promise of a whim from an intern. Apparently not. But the program manager's explanation did give me the courage to try to impress them in hopes that they would recognize my "brilliance" and bring me on to the .Mac team.
So, I took my shot and suggested that if they wanted to increase .Mac sales they should offer a range of exclusive iPod games to .Mac members to capitalize on the popularity of the iPod (at the time Apple only made three games for the click-wheel iPods: Brick, Parachute, and Solitaire). The program manager's response? Laughing me off as politely as they could, trying to hold it together. Who'd want more games on the iPod?
Five years later and you can't find an iPod without a game on it... So much for my innovative instincts. As for the exclusive widgets: it's not exactly finding the Fountain of Youth, but I thought I'd finally put this bit of Apple lore on the books.
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