Google Desktop 4 leaves beta, launches gadget dev contest

The Google Desktop team just announced that version 4 of the software has left beta status, so all you cynics about perpetual beta can give it a rest! This version only spent 6 weeks in beta. Maybe GMail is next, who knows?

Today’s announcement included the expansion of Google Desktop into now 27 languages, the availability of a new drag and drop system for gadget (or widget) UI development and a contest for the development of new gadgets. If you’re a PC user interested in having the newest Digg headlines, a Skype plug in or NASA TV on your desktop then Google Desktop Gadgets could be for you. (In previous TechCrunch coverage, Mike has posted a number of critiques of Google Desktop’s privacy and file handling features.)

Development contests like this are always of interest to me. Are they just a cheap way to score programming energy? Are they the ticket to future fame and fortune by the newly high-profile winners? Does anything truly useful come out of them? Since so many of these gadget/widget things are based on nice displays of RSS feeds, I’m convinced the possibilities are nearly endless. How about a widget that displays oceanic conditions from the Maine Ocean Observing System’s weather beacon RSS feed, or a gadget that grabs and displays the RSS feeds of all comments on my blog. Now that could be useful. Gadget/widget things may end up being the primary use of RSS, in fact.

Will we see more innovation in the gadget space or the widget space? That’s a ridiculous question.