Kiwi Vista gadgets capture world attention

Local developer sees a huge opportunity in building gadgets

Locally developed gadgets for the Windows Vista sidebar are being downloaded by the thousands across the world.

Wellington-based software developer Mindscape, for example, has built a Powershell gadget that has been downloaded by over 2,000 users so far. It has also made it on to the top-10 list of best gadgets compiled by IDG Sweden, says Jeremy Boyd, director of Mindscape.

A gadget is a mini-application that provides real-time graphical system information, or other information such as weather, stock quotes or the latest headlines.

Currently, there are about ten gadgets out there that have been developed by the local Microsoft developer community. This is in addition to the gadgets generated by Microsoft itself, says Sean McBreen, Microsoft New Zealand developer and platform director. For example, there is a Geekzone gadget; there is also a CruiseControl.Net server gadget, and there are gadgets created by organisations such as Trade Me, TVNZ and the Rugby Union, he says.

The idea behind the Powershell gadget is to have a device that is always available on the desktop and that users can type commands into and have them executed, says Mindscape’s Boyd.

“It’s really just ease of use for people who are running a lot of commands through the Powershell, rather than having to open up new ones every time,” says Boyd.

Initially, Boyd’s team built the gadget for their own use, but then thought it could be useful for other people, too, he says. Mindscape has created a template for developing gadgets to help developers get going, says Boyd.

“One of the most common questions I’ve heard from people who want to develop gadgets is: ‘How do I get started?’”

The Mindscape template outlines the restrictions for building a gadget and gives some practical examples.

Boyd is keen to build more gadgets. They are pretty quick to put together and they are useful for automating processes, he says.

“Anything that can help make the boat go faster is useful to us.”

He sees a huge opportunity in building gadgets because they do not require high investment, are easy to use and bring value back quickly.

Mindscape is also developing a community website called Background Motion, which will help people find good content for DreamScene, one of the features in Vista Ultimate, says Boyd. DreamScene lets users view videos — even their own — as the desktop background. The website, whose launch is imminent, will help the community find interesting videos to use for background, he says.

Boyd has been involved in the local Microsoft developer community since 2001. “What we had then [in 2001] was a very closed-minded approach to development, where everyone hoarded knowledge,” he says.

“Over time, people have come to the opinion that the more you share knowledge the better it is for everyone.”

Today, there are lots of opportunities for .Net developers to get together, collaborate and learn, he says. There is a network of small, local user groups, as well as a national network, and events such as “Code Camp”, he says. Boyd reckons “a couple of thousand” developers are active within the various communities.

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