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Watson technology sold to Sun

Big announcement in the small world of Mac software developers: Karelia Software has sold the technology behind Watson, one of my favorite OS X apps, to an undisclosed “large company” *cough* Sun *cough*. This means Watson will cease to be distributed at the end of July and will cease being supported on October 5, 2004:

As part of the transition, Karelia is planning on having Watson reach its “end of life” on October 5, 2004. After this end-of-life date, Karelia will not be able to fully support and maintain Watson. (Between now and then, Watson will continue to be fully supported.) Hopefully, by that timeframe, the company will have announced a new product that Watson users should be able to migrate to.

Some Web sites that Watson connects to change frequently, so some modules (see below) tend to break frequently. This means that after the end-of-life date for Watson, some tools in Watson will no longer function. Many other tools, connecting to less volatile Web sites, may work for a long time after that date.

I use the movies feature all the time and it will probably cease operation a couple of months after the end-of-life date. But the FAQ offers hope; a new version built by said “large company” is in the works:

Having a large company create and distribute a Watson-like desktop application to access Web services was a great fit for the vision of Watson. Not only can their reincarnation of Watson function on multiple platforms, they will have the resources and clout to bring more and better content to the desktop. And of course, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the new program will function splendidly on Macs!

And so they are…here’s a weblog entry detailing Project Alameda, a rather Watson-esque that does a bit of search, shopping (@ Amazon), and newsreading. Sun missed the whole Web browser thing, but it looks like they’re going to give the microcontent browser a go. Very interesting.

Reader comments

Ry RivardJun 29, 2004 at 12:35AM

Look for the move beyond microcontent browsers to microcontent microbrowsers.

OS 10.4's Dashboard is the first step -- or, perhaps, just another step -- in this direction.

Why have a big application for small content? If a user needs a stock market update, 1 click to 1 widget. If they need movie times, 1 click to 1 widget about movie times. Why should I open an application that has both the weather and the stock market unless I'm in raincoat futures?

Little content needs a little space. Sherlock and Watson were on the right track -- a user doesn't need to see the whole page of and go through 2 screens and scroll down to get the forecast. Both pruned extraneous data in several categories. Widgets are better, they away the extraneous categories.

Karelia got lucky, they sold out on the same day they lost their customers.

Buck PylandJun 29, 2004 at 1:39AM

I guess change really is inevitable, but I'm not happy about it. Watson is/was an outstanding application. Sherlock 3 is a cheap imitation, and most of it's channels don't even work anymore or are irrelevant. If I live in St. Louis, MO I really don't care about rail times in California or movie times in the UK. It would be nice if Sun treats Watson's customers right in regards to their new version if/when it comes out. We'll have to wait and see.

I also like Dashboard. In fact I liked it the first time ... when it was called Konfabulator. :)

barry fondlingJun 29, 2004 at 1:47AM

maybe if apple keeps on pissing off their developers, sun'll collect them all? ...and GPL'em :D konfabulous!

btw, matt webb thinks they should turn it into gnome's dashboard, "which could be the biggest desktop UI leap forward for years:"

Mike RundleJun 29, 2004 at 1:52AM

Good for Karelia, they really needed a boost after the Apple/Sherlock fiasco.

davidJun 29, 2004 at 5:22AM

Hold on to your wallet, Sun is here :(

waiting for my refundJun 29, 2004 at 9:12AM

Watson has just been stomped into the dust of history.
Sorry to see it go... Really sorry. Sounds like karelia sold Sun everything and can't even maintain a "feature frozen" version. Must have been those microsoft dollars via sun that clouded their judgement.

But then I suppose that this situation is a developers dream... Write a brilliant app, have it purchased for big bucks, screw over your customers and you get to buy a new car!

Raymond LutzJun 29, 2004 at 10:14AM

I hope the code won't finish like Lighthouse Design Apps, also bought by Sun (back then "OS X" was called OPENSTEP...)


John Stuart MillJun 30, 2004 at 3:20AM

Every great movement must experience three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.

Robert CarianJun 30, 2004 at 10:59AM

I purchased my copy of Watson. I never would of guessed it was a limited license that would be expiring. I'm in the wrong business. I grow table grapes. Once I sell a box to NY city, it is gone forever. I want to do what Karelia does. Sell the box to NY city and then sell it again to Sun and write a self serving note telling my customer in NY that he got to look (but not eat) at the box for a few days before I re-sold it to Sun . So what is your problem bub? Pay me.
And to think I purchased Watson after I saw the cheap Sherlock imitation thinking I didn't like the way Apple imitated the interface. Now i say screw Karelia and screw this Rose "widget" ass also. Hell, if you developer folks can't stop buying grapes in the supermarket from mexico (no pesticide inspection) where they pay $8/day to their workers vs my $80/day (while I suffer ungodly government regulation also) and support USA grown product then why should I care in the least if Apple is integrating this technology into their OS? I don't think I do. I don't think I own worldwide rights to grapes. I don't think Karelia/Rose own worldwide rights to applets. I have to compete by continuing to grow better products cheaper each and every year. And now mexico is suffering because they can't compete with my quality. Sometimes I have to remove acres of varieties at an expense of millons just because that perticular grape fell out of favor with the US public. I do it all at my expense. Hell, you folks don't give it a second thought when it comes to buying my grapes, you just look for the cheapest price. If they are mexican, well so what if they are cheaper. Well I'm gonna do the same here and you developers stop crying and compete. It takes a little education and a computer to be a developer. It takes acres, employees, education and millons of dollars of capital to grow grapes. But you developers are looking for deals on grapes just as I am looking for deals on my computer. I'll intice you to buy mine by making them better, not by crying in my beer. Do the same and shut up.

walterJun 30, 2004 at 1:02PM

Robert Carian makes some very good points. and this goes furtehr to to difuse Rose's complaints. Dashboard is not a rip-off. it uses the concepts but makes it better.

Mac FanJun 30, 2004 at 1:02PM

Great. Sell the software to the one company least likely to have any market impact on the desktop. Sun does well (note: not great in the server market) but has little or no presence on the desktop compared to Microsoft and Apple. So a great product has just been consigned to limbo, never to be seen again.

John DowdellJun 30, 2004 at 5:24PM

Once sold, software lasts a little longer than this particular harvest of the grapevine, true...? ;-)

(btw, what type of grapestock do you have planted? David Fenton's "no-pesticide" story on organics worked for some people for awhile, but it didn't fare as well long-term for smaller growers as did offering flavorful (yet seeded) varieties such as oldtime Muscats, Bronx, fragile Concord varieties and such. There's a couple of ways to get out of commodity status.)


Scott JohnsonJul 01, 2004 at 4:01PM

Why mention Sun right after mentioning that the company was undisclosed? What's your source?

MC Mix MetaphorJul 04, 2004 at 4:27PM

The source leaking the truth is the most elementary pairing of 2 + 2 to equal four, both Sun and Karelia being somewhat coy and oops excuse my NDA about their moves while simultaneously trumpeting their mutual loss/gain via WWDC and JavaOne newsblurbs. Well, mostly Dan Wood including the following two URLs, and mentioning JavaOne and WDDC in the same breath, in his Watson Developer mail list.

It is simply going cross platform.. Not sure how Sun hopes to make money from it however. Server sales? Getting more Java development on board? Sherlock looks abandoned at this point. Apple may fold something in closer to the kernel of the OS, but they don't spend the time supporting it. Sherlock has always been a red headed step child with good and bad days, and truth be known, those serving content don't want necessarily want it digested by third parties when selling eyeballs for banner ads. Just because someone steals the sizzle doesn't mean you should stop making steak.

Robert CarianJul 10, 2004 at 2:52PM

I currently grow Flame Seedless, Red globe and Crimson Seedless. The varities you cite are usually grown in the northeastern part of our country. The way i have gotten out of the commodity business is with quality and marketing to Sam's Club and to Costco. Believe it or not, these 2 companies pay fairly for quality and constant supply. The supermarkets surely do not. As far as organically grown? All I did is increase my costs without earning a nickel extra. Organic is a niche market that has already hit it's hieght and is now retreating.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.