Just in a 'nick of time
If you've been noticing a dearth of new themes in the past month or so, you're not imagining it. And it's all our fault. For the past several months, Stardock has been working on a truly massive skinning project called MyColors. It has already teamed up with hundreds of companies, colleges, franchises, sports teams, etc. to created official, authorized themes that can then be sold to fans and "regular" people as a single install theme.
The idea is to let people buy for $20 a theme for their desktop where both the suite and the software are combined seamlessly. Users just press a button and it's on and press another button to turn it off. There's no configuration, no UI (other than choosing the theme). It's very straight forward. And so far, we're very pleased with the success it's achieving. We haven't been pushing MyColors very hard to WinCustomize users because it hasn't played very nice with WindowBlinds and IconPackager (i.e. order of install stuff) but that will soon change with the upcoming self-healing smart Theme Manager that's nearly done.
To give you an idea of the scope, by end of this year, there may be over 200 suites available. Think about that -- between 1999 and 2006 there might have been a dozen or dozen and a half professional suites created. But in one year, 200 suites have had to be made from scratch and approved by the partner.
So Stardock Design has been hiring skinners to work on this project. All of SkinPlant and all of Pixtudio are working with Stardock Design. Alexandrie, Treetog, MikeB, ChaNinja, Hippy, Essorant, Voo, Gef, Danilo0c, Cerebro, ScottT, Mormegil, JJ Ying, and others are either working full time or now at Stardock or a good chunk of their time. And that's not even a full list (I can't keep up with everything Stardock Design is working on and working with these days, it's the dream team of skinning so if I missed someone please forgive my incomplete knowledge). But needless to say, it takes a bit of a chunk out of new skins and themes being made.
As an encore, a whole series of new WindowBlinds 6 and DesktopX 4 themes are going to be made by the dream team too and released so and then things will start to get back to normal. But now you know why so many big skinners have been missing. It's like the Apollo program of skinning. Imagine someday being able to buy a PC and choose how you want it to look on the outside and inside (Stardock has teamed up with SkinIt who specializes in making skins for computer cases and laptops (they really are very cool, especially on laptops). Or imagine going to the university computer lab and all the computers having the university theme instead of plain Windows? And there's some big announcements coming up that I can't yet talk about but I think users will be extremely excited about some of the things coming up.
Here are some screenshots below of MyColors themes already available:
Another big thing that's been going on is the development of IconDeveloper 2.0. This is a complete rewrite that we think users will be very pleased with. It should go into beta relatively soon (very close to the beta release of SkinStudio 6 which is a radical departure and also a complete rewrite of SkinStudio).
One of the big things that's resulted from bringing on so many skinners as part of Stardock is that now the software follows more the needs of the skinners. That is, for programs like DesktopX 4 and WindowBlinds 6, the skinners are telling us the things they'd like to create and the software capabilities are being enhanced to suit their needs. This is in stark contrast to how things have been done previously where the developers came up with features and then tried to get skinners to make use of them. Wait till you see some of the killer stuff that's being made.
Another benefit of all the skinners coming on board is that more "stuff" will be able to be made for subscribers. WinCustomize subscribers, for instance, will start to see more subscriber-exclusive content being made. The site will start to have special areas to show off this content so that it's easy to manage and see the benefits of being a WinCustomize subscriber. Similarly, Object Desktop users will start seeing "content" components that are basically skins and themes made by Stardock Design exclusively for those users.
No worries about lots of free skins and themes continuing to be made by the community. Once we quit hogging all their time, you'll see things get back to normal. In addition, with the arrival of better skinning tools this Fall, skinning will start to get a lot easier. For instance, in addition to SkinStudio 6, we hope to allow the development of WindowBlinds 6 skins using purely Photoshop layers (no editor required). That won't come until after SkinStudio 6 but it will open the door to skinning to a lot of new skinners.