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AppRocket

K10K today linked to Candy Labs’ first public beta of AppRocket (“The most useful application, ever!”), while commenting that it’s a pity that it’s only available for Windows XP. What’s really a pity is that Candy Labs, founded in 2002, is quite blatantly ripping the idea from Norbert C. Heger & Co. — that is, the good folks at Objective Development.

The similarities between AppRocket and LaunchBar are uncanny

Objective Development’s LaunchBar, which you might say, uh… ‘inspired’ the development of AppRocket, was first released in 1996 for the NeXTSTEP OS and sports the same interface, same functionality, same concatenated, mid–capitalized name, and same goddamned keyboard shortcut as this ‘new’ and ‘original’ application from Candy Labs. It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic, particularly when their about page goes on to say:

When Candy Labs creates a product, we slave to ensure that every part of that product is justified and coherent. This process can be very tedious and usually requires that we review every piece of a product countless times, stripping it or redesigning areas until it meets our standards.

…something I believe is PR bullshit–speak for “we examined a successful and original product in a niche market and redressed it for Windows XP.”

Congratulations, Candy Labs. You’ve made my day.

Update

I’ve received word from Dustin Mierau, one half of Candy Labs, that AppRocket is indeed (and quite intentionally) a LaunchBar ripoff. In his own words:

We were sad that there was nothing like it on Windows (because it's so darn useful) so we decided to create it. We will be contacting Objective Development soon with the final release and hopefully we can work something out (us linking to their site for mac users)

I’m speechless. And while I’m not sure ‘faux pas’ is a strong enough phrase for the situation, I’m going to use it anyway.

Update Deux

Given the amount of mail I’ve received on the AppRocket topic (thanks largely to the linkage from John Gruber), I can tell there are a lot of incensed Mac users out there… some out for blood. I can only imagine the fallout Candy Labs is receiving, so I’ll save you the time of writing to them and asking ‘what the fuck?’ and save them the time of dealing with a bunch of pissed–off zealots (no offense, of course) by providing a few answers here.

For your interest and for posterity, I present to you the extent of my communications with Candy Labs’ Dustin Mierau. Though by my recollection, it was Joseph Addison who said “We are always doing, says he, something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.”

Hi Chris!

We are very much aware of AppRocket’s similarities to LaunchBar (we are avid LaunchBar users ourselves). We were sad that there was nothing like it on Windows (because it’s so darn useful) so we decided to create it. We will be contacting Objective Development soon with the final release and hopefully we can work something out (us linking to their site for mac users).

Anyway, I am very sorry we obviously did not get this across as we haven’t tried to yet.

Have a good day (or night?),
–Dustin Mierau
Candy Labs

I didn’t reply to this email, instead opting to post the above update to the site. A day later, Dustin wrote again.

Hello again Chris!

Happy to see you posted a revised statement on AppRocket, I understand you were not obligated at all to do so. Again, we are really sorry for the confusion. We have updated our website a little for mac users (of course this does not totally do Objective Development justice, but it is something for now). I'll keep you updated on this, if you at all care ;)

We are a small company and we really intend on releasing some great products in the future. We thought LaunchBar was so great though that we wanted to bring this idea to our PCs as we are addicted to it (I think I’ve completely forgot how to use the finder since I paid for it back in Jan. 2002). We are mac developers as well! We have some apps in the pipeline that should surface soon (original ideas – for honest and for true!).

Anyway, I’m rambling here.

Thanks again,
–Dustin Mierau
Candy Labs

P.S. Love your site + style! I actually read it every so often, which is how I came upon the story. I hope this tiff does not hurt how you look upon us as a software company and our future apps.

To this, I replied. I was a little tempted to call bullshit on that post–script, given that it’s more likely he came upon the story from his referrer logs, but flattery goes a long way… so I let it slide.

Hi Dustin,

I appreciate that you’re just a business trying to make its way in the world, and I can see that you and Marek are both talented developers, but doesn’t it strike you as a little dangerous to be undertaking an application such as AppRocket? I doubt I need to slug you with the “ideas are the currency of the new economy” bullshit, but doesn’t AppRocket (in its unabashed mimicry [of both form and function] of LaunchBar) constitute some kind of intellectual property infringement?

Clearly I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t have a clue as to whether you’re culpable to any kind of offense, but it just seems that you should’ve approached ObDev first; maybe worked out an agreement for you to make an ‘official port’ of LaunchBar to Windows XP. That way, not only would you likely have a solid flow of traffic from ObDev’s website to your own, but you couldn’t be criticized in any way for your work. There are too many soapbox–riding assholes out there (such as myself) to get away with passing somebody else’s ideas off as your own. I’ll be interested to see what ObDev says about all of it, so yeah; do keep me updated.

You’ve got the ability, you’ve got the style, and you tell me you’ve got the ideas, so I look forward to seeing more products emerge from Candy Labs in the future… even though it does mean I have to dust off the ol’ PC to try them out.

Good luck.

–Chris

A day later…

Hey Chris,

Sorry about the delayed response.

We are very interested in working with Objective Development if they are interested at all. LaunchBar has been around for a long time NeXT and then MacOS X, there was no talk of a Windows version during this time, so we decided to develop something. You are perhaps right though, approaching them initially would have been wise. The smoke is clearing though and hopefully Mac users are a little more convinced that we are not out to rip ObjDev out of anything.

The next few weeks will be interesting nonetheless!

Thanks for the email. We love talking about this stuff, it is important to us that we hear what users have to say or we simply can not better ourselves as a company.

Have a good day,
–Dustin Mierau
Candy Labs