The idea has been around for ages, and relatively popular "widget engines" have existed for several years.
Stardocks DesktopX product allows for the production and consumption of desktop applets it calls DesktopX Objects, but users can export those into little .exe files called Widgets that can be used by anyone without running DesktopX—with one major caveat. Though DesktopX doesnt need to be running, it does need to be installed.
Recently, Stardock enabled the ability for users of DesktopX Pro to export their own Widgets/Objects as "Gadgets," which are stand-alone desktop applets that run on anyones PC, without even having DesktopX installed. Confused yet?
Dont worry, because were not going to focus on Stardocks solution here today. DesktopX is a full desktop skinning program that, though reasonably priced, is not free. It offers major functions beyond running widgets or gadgets. The main takeaway point is this—little desktop applet engines have been around on the PC since 2003.
On Apples OS X, the time frame looks similar. Konfabulator released a widget engine for OS X early in 2003, and released it for Windows late the following year. Konfabulators Mac widget engine market sort of dried up when Apple introduced Dashboard into OS 10.4 (Tiger).
The feature, which uses little applets known also as "widgets," is strikingly similar to Konfabulators product. Konfabulator was bought by Yahoo last summer, and its software renamed the Yahoo Widget Engine.
What does all this have to do with Windows Vista?
One of Vistas most visible new features is the Sidebar.
Annoyance to some (typically those with smaller 4:3 monitors) and delight to others (those with high-res or widescreen displays), the Sidebar is going to be the first introduction to gadgets/widgets for millions of PC users.
Today, well take a look at Yahoo Widget Engine for all you Windows XP users, and discuss the features and potential of Vistas Sidebar Gadgets for those looking forward to upgrading their OS.