UI frameworks focussing on extensibility

Brent Simmons, Michael McCracken, Dan Wood, Michael Dupuis, Sven S. Porst and others have been taking up with the latest “advances” of MacOS X’s UI, as found in its latest incarnation “Tiger”.
Back in the old System 7/8/9 days, the MacOS had a pretty limited but system-wide consistently used set of UI widgets. Apple wasn’t (that much) into the software applications business, and third-party developers (both big shops and one-man shows) were forced to advance the state of the art in terms of UI widgets. Remember, those were the days when there was no tab-control, no combo-box control, no multi-column list control etc. (Come to think of it, some of it holds true today for Carbon- and Resource-based MacOS X applications – sic). In order to come up with a great MacOS application in those days, you had to invest substantial resources into widget/UI development.
Fast-forward to 2005. Cocoa/HIViews provide a set of reasonably powerful UI widgets. Apple is cranking out software applications like mad. And still third-party developers and Apple itself regularily come up with new UI widgets & styles.
Why is that?
IMHO, a major suspect are web applications/pages. No User Interface Guidelines. No limits. Web applications don’t have strong ties in platform specific UI frameworks and widgets. It’s pretty straightforward to come up with a new look for a button control – in fact, it’s way easier to create a new button or list control style for use in a web app than for any desktop applications. This is putting an enormous pressure on desktop applications to advance their UI.
Traditionally, desktop UI frameworks and widget sets haven’t been able to keep up with the state of the art. Most likely, they never will.
What third-party developers should be advocating is a UI framework which makes it as straightforward as possible to come up with new UI styles and widgets. Because UI development is damned hard. It shouldn’t be that way.

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