Where would the Mac be today without iTunes?
I see nothing wrong with what Apple did with respect to Dashboard. Widgets are the Desk Accessories of the 2000's.
Widgets are on Windows (see DesktopX from www.stardock.com) and Linux has had them for a long time too. Of course they are copies of what Apple did first like so many things.
I also find the other charges of copying funny:
Watson... I wonder if that name had association with Apple's Sherlock app? A better Sherlock perhaps? Sure, Apple did pretty much copy the layout of some of the tools, but it's hardly fair to say Apple has to stop innovating on of their strategic applications just because a small developer tried to take it one step further.
LiteSwitch... (Cmd-Tabbing in Panther) is a total copy of the same behaviour in Windows that is over 10 years old.. Sure, Apple did pretty much copy some of the nuances of LiteSwitch, but this is not uncommon... after the first app with a toolbar strip (or tabbed palette inspector) came out, didn't lots of apps follow? Same with spell checking, multiple undo, etc etc. Haven't the desktop vendors been copying little feature after little feature from each other since the beginning in their Finder/Explorer browsers? Haven't browsers been copying each others innovations since the beginning? Same with OSs in general, look at the protocols... Samba, for instance.
When Apple copies ideas from other big vendors, people cheer (and/or don't complain much). I don't remember so much complaining about hurting Adobe with Preview.app. What about when Panther added Word support to TextEdit? What about when they added Chess (it's been there since day 1)? What about Safari (IE)? Or iChat (AOL IM)? Or iCal/iSync (Palm Desktop/Entourage)? Or Apple Remote Desktop (TB2 Pro)? Let's not forget Keynote. We cheered being able to toss PowerPoint! Those 3rd party apps are are all important ones.
But watch out, if Apple copies something that is a copy of something in Windows, or if Apple plays leapfrog with someone trying to improve on their own tool, or if Apple plays leapfrog with someone that innovated something they practically invented nearly 25 years ago, the masses bitch and moan.
People even bitched when Apple did what the whiners wanted to happen this time and with Watson... they bought a small developer's MP3 player (which I had a registered copy of, I might add), improved it and called it iTunes. Oh no, what about all the other little MP3 player makers, people cried. Well where would Apple and OS X be now if it only had Watson, Konfabulator, LiteSwitch, Windows servers, Acrobat Reader, Word, BattleChess, IE, AOL IM, Palm Desktop, TB2 Pro, PowerPoint and a bunch of little MP3 player and none of these apps/features: Sherlock, Dashboard, great built-in cmd-tabbing, Samba, Preview, TextEdit, Chess, Safari, iCal/iSync, Remote Desktop, Keynote and iTunes.
Apple would be dead, and we'd be Dell-buying dudes. In just about every case, Apple did a far better job than the app is competes against. It did things the Apple way that Mac users demand and cheer, it set the bar higher, and made OS X the great environment it is.
And I haven't even gotten into their Pro/Enterprise software like Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, WebObjects. They've raised the bar in every instance and made the Mac a more viable platform.
I'm not a fan of widgets really, although I am Stickies addict. If only for the ability to activate/deactivate my Stickies with Expose-like activation, I will use Dashboard. I will not use Konfabulator, most of the widgets are silly toys, and when I did try them they just cluttered my desktop and sucked up too much CPU.
I can't wait for Tiger. Thanks Apple!