The company originally launched this feature with the release of Windows Vista, and, for a long time, the library Microsoft built over the years was huge thanks to internal developers and third parties. Now they're all mostly gone save for 29 of what the company seemingly considers "Greatest Hits." Even the Xbox Live Avatar widget is gone, replaced with the Avatar360 clock.
"Because we want to focus on the exciting possibilities of the newest version of Windows, Microsoft no longer supports uploading new gadgets. But that doesn't mean you can't still get gadgets. The most popular and highest-rated gadgets are still available on this page," the gadget page officially reads towards the bottom.
For gadget developers, Microsoft points out that they can now "use your HTML5 and CSS3 skills to build Metro-style apps for Windows 8 Release Preview. To get started developing Metro style apps, go to Windows Dev Center."
That leads us to the current report issued by Win8China. The site claims that it has obtained the latest internal build of Windows 8 -- 844x -- and that it contains no references to desktop gadgets in the control panel or desktop mode. Currently gadgets are supported in Windows 8 Consumer and Release Preview editions.
Desktop gadgets were originally required to be docked (or contained) within a special sidebar in Windows Vista. Visually this feature was removed in Windows 7, allowing gadgets to float on the desktop or be attached to the left or right side of the screen. However all gadgets are still owned by the sidebar.exe process, as seen in the Process tab of Windows Task Manager.
Typically the mini-apps are based on HTML and obtain information from web feeds. Based on Microsoft's information on the gadgets webpage, the company is merely moving up to HTML5 and CSS3, turning "gadgets" into "apps" with a Metro-based theme. Does this mean sidebar.exe is finally being phased out? Guess we'll find out this fall.