iPad Dashboard Widgets

It’s been a week since Apple announced the iPad and some have started to realize that the images of the iPad’s home screen are missing several icons. More specifically Weather, Clock, Stocks, Voice Memos and Calculator are all missing (iBooks is also missing but it is likely a late addition that simply didn’t make the deadline for inclusion in the promotional material for January’s unveiling).

When Apple first announced the iPhone at Macworld Expo 2007, Steve Jobs proudly announced that the iPhone had widgets. At that time Weather, Stocks, and Calculator were all built in HTML and JavaScript. Apple scrapped the idea before launch and the idea of widgets on the iPhone was never heard from again. I have often wondered why Apple decided to abandon widgets on the iPhone, given the iPhone’s screen size, widgets seem like the perfect fit. I assume (and John Gruber has been informed by his sources) that it is mostly due to performance concerns — HTML and JavaScript just can’t render as quickly as native code.

It’s very possible that Apple could be moving back to widgets in iPhone OS, but on the iPad. The applications listed above would work perfectly as widgets and they are exactly the kind of apps that you want to have access to at all times.

Charles Ying points out that Apple didn’t reveal the YouTube app on the iPhone until 9 days before it’s release. If Apple were to announce dashboard widgets for the iPad it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest for them to wait as long as they could before announcing it.

I must give credit to Kevin Fox for first mention the idea of dashboard widgets on the iPad, but I don’t know if his idea of implementation is quite there yet. Instead of a five-finger pinch gesture, wouldn’t it be more natural for Apple to add this as another option for the double-click home button shortcut? I see the other options for that shortcut to be practically useless on the iPad, especially if it has widgets. The current options on the iPhone are Home, Search, Phone Favorites, Camera, and iPod. Because of hardware limitations the iPad wouldn’t need phone favorites or camera and I could easily see the other options implemented as widgets themselves (with the home option simply being replaced with the ability to disable widgets altogether).

Just like the addition of Push Notifications, dashboard widgets will be the way Apple quiets those complaining about multi-tasking on the iPad. Dashboard widgets are unobtrusive and easy on the battery life. As Kevin Fox puts it:

It might not be OS multitasking but it’s user multi-tasking and, unlike running several apps simultaneously, it behaves nicely. OS X dashboard widgets sit quietly when the dashboard’s not up and make their calls and updates quickly when the dashboard is called up.

This is exactly the kind of thing Apple would do. And as an added bonus, Apple might be able to leverage the ever-growing catalog of Dashboard widgets for Mac OS X.

Imagine downloading the same dashboard widgets you currently use on your Mac and installing them on your iPad to be called up while running any application, simply by double clicking the home button.

Update 2/11/10: It turns out that iBooks isn’t bundled with the iPad at all. Instead, the app will be available in the App Store.