The rise and fall of the Windows Desktop Gadget

Following last month's dump of user-submitted Office templates, Microsoft has abruptly dropped support for third-party Windows Desktop Gadgets

In a move that took many by surprise, Microsoft dropped support for new Windows Desktop Gadgets.

Once hailed (or at least marketed) as a key new feature in Windows Vista, Desktop Gadgets are going the way of the dodo. In their stead? Windows 8 Metro, of course.

Microsoft's official death certificate for Windows Gadgets hawks, "With Windows Developer Preview, developers can create rich app experiences where customers focus on their important tasks. Apps are at the center of the Windows Developer Preview experience and are alive with activity and vibrant content. Users immerse themselves in your full-screen app while Windows gracefully gets out of the way."

Well, yes, that's certainly the case if you're talking about the Metro tiled "Mr. Hyde" interface in Windows 8 Developer Preview. The old-fashioned "Dr. Jekyll" desktop view still supports Gadgets, at least in the current incarnation of Windows 8. To see for yourself, if you have a copy of the Developer Preview handy, right-click on an empty spot on the Windows 8 dekstop and choose Gadgets, then Get More Gadgets Online -- precisely the same way one would get Gadgets in Windows 7. Except now you can't submit more Gadgets for inclusion in the Microsoft-managed collection.

Microsoft's canning more than just Windows Desktop Gadgets. In this go-around, it looks like they're also dumping user-submitted gadgets, emoticons, and plug-ins for Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Writer, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, and Windows Live Messenger. As Microsoft puts it, the "Windows Live Gallery has been retired."

The situation with Desktop Gadgets is very similar to the deprecation we saw with user-submitted Office templates last month. Microsoft has long supported a community-based repository for Gadgets, emoticons, and plug-ins for Windows and for various Windows Live products. Submit a Gadget, Microsoft makes sure it isn't malicious and, if it passes muster, the Gadget gets added to the download collection. This announcement doesn't cut off existing Gadgets, emoticons, or plug-ins; it just shuts off the user submission process and implies rather strongly that Microsoft itself won't be building any more.

Windows 7 developers take note. More handwriting on the wall...

This story, "The rise and fall of the Windows Desktop Gadget," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.