I've been wanting to write this one for a while, but continually got sidetracked, but there's no time like the present...
I'm not going to talk about them, too much has been written about them by others already.
Instead I want to talk about applets in general. These are the "little" helper processes that software seems to leave lying around after installation. These are a particular pet peeve of mine, I'm well known inside MS (or at least within the Windows division) as being rather fanatical about them, and fighting tooth and nail (sometimes successfully) to get them removed. I don't know how many times I've asked: "Why does your product (or feature) have all this crap running (where 'crap' is defined as 'stuff I don't want running on my machine')?"
Applets come in lots of sizes and shapes - they can be services waiting on an app to use them; they can be processes that handle systray icons; they can be helper applications. But they share one common: they all consume resources, sometimes LOTs of resources. And I would rather that these applets NOT consume resources.
Nowadays, machines come with a fair amount of resources - my current dev machine is a dual 2.4g Core2Duo 6600 with 2G of RAM and a reasonable amount of disk space (750G on 3 drives), but Vsta runs on machines that are far less capable (before it died, my laptop was a P2 with 512M of RAM and it ran Vista Ultimate just fine (no glass, but other than that it worked well)). On such a machine, every single unnecessary process can be painful.
The Windows team has known that this has been an issue for years, and has built in a ton of features into the operating system to help alleviate the pain and suffering associated with applets (some of which have been there since NT 3.1), but the reality is that nobody takes advantage of this functionality, and that's a real shame.
In a potentially futile attempt at trying to inspire people to improve our customers' experiences, I'm going to dedicate this week to writing posts about applets and how developers can fix them.
Btw: I want to be totally clear here: Microsoft is just as guilty as others in this arena.
Tomorrow: Why do people write applets?