Widget Week part 1 – Mobile Monday: Mobile Widgets

Widget Week kicked off last Monday 14th May, and hard to believe though it was, there was me at a MoMo London that I’d come up with the theme for, and someone thought I was called Brenda. Typical ;-)

After a quick intro from MoMo’s Alex Craxton and myself, it was on to the substantial roster of speakers – most of whom also gave demos.

David Pollington of Vodafone R&D gave the opening talk – a scenesetter that summarized the key issues and opportunities he saw clustered around the emergence of mobile widgets.

First off – do we want a mobile internet or a mobilized internet? What do people want when mobilized? They certainly don’t want to have to fire-up a browser and search – so widgets are the perfect solution, or at least that’s the hypothesis.

Self-service approach to the Long Tail

Widgets are good for users, Pollington said, giving a threefold justification. You can provide customisable widget templates, hence enabling a self-service approach to the Long Tail; widgets are more bandwidth efficient; and they enable and embody always-on connectivity.

They’re also good for developers, he continued. By leveraging web technologies widgets open mobile service development out to the web development community.

They’re good for business too, he added, but I couldn’t keep up with his rapid-fire delivery! In terms of exploring new presentation options, Pollington said he would like a snapshot option, so he can tab though his widget screens.

In turn, widgets are enabling mash-ups. As a mash-up example he cited the single-click download of a map for one of the addresses in his address book.

Wigdets contextualize

In the same vein, when capturing a camera event a widget can offer the user options for annotating and blogging that image. Widgets aid contextualising services. The contextualisation comes with utilising location data in the calendar.

2008 will see a paradigm change in how widgets change mobile access to web information and services, he concluded.

Then came a short presentation on uiOne, the [event sponsor] Qualcomm user interface profile that according to representative Anwar Ahmed “enables rich and dynamic user experiences on wireless devices”. The speaker stressed the rapid development of customisable interfaces on uiOne. End users can also use it for presentation, theming and micro-segmentation.

Then it was the turn of Cees Van Dok, the creative director of Frog Design. Their strapline is ‘evolve, expand, envision’. Their relevant product is Celltop. It runs on the Alltell mobile carrier network in the US, who approached Frog to develop it, and from the demo it seemed rather nifty.

Open source-powered platforms

Ganesh Sivaraman of Nokia (who also came along to Chinwag Live Media Widgetised) was next up. His talk was quite compelling. He spoke of taking web apps and widgets to mobile devices on Nokia’s S60 platform. S60 has over 50% share of market on converged devices.

Built on top of the Symbian platform, it offers page view, toolbar, web feeds (RSS and Atom), and visual history. He described it as a world class browser developed by embracing and participating with the open source community.

The next step, reasoned Sivaraman, is internet going mobile, taking all Web 2.0 websites and web services to a mobile widget. With Web Run Time, S60 extends and integrates the best in class web components across the platform, he continued. It leverages all known web technologies with two principal outcomes: (1) They develop with standards-based web technologies; (2) Millions of web developers can now go mobile.

By 2010 Nokia predicts 4 billion mobile device subscribers. It will be much easier to facilitate the spread [of mobile web?] by creating templates to crank out widgets.

Web standards and then some…

Charles McCathieNevile of Opera Software kicked off with a bunch of Opera-related statistics. In 2006 they shipped about 140 40 million high-end browsers on four of the major converged device platforms [thanks to Chaals for the correction]. 2006 also saw 40m Opera desktop browser downloads. There are 10m Opera Mini users; and 500,000 My.Opera.com community users. There are around 1,000 Opera widgets; and Opera also runs on the Nintendo Wii, airplane seats, Archos, and the Nintendo DS.

If the browser is the platform and Opera widgets are cross-platform, then web standards are the glue… but there is more! The Opera platform also dug into the camera, for example, so you can use it for photo uploads to a widget [if I noted that correctly].

Widgets everywhere!

Opera took a draft widget packaging spec to the W3C to ensure that widgets can work anywhere. [UPDATE: McCathieNevile has since contacted me to stress that the point of taking the spec to W3C is to kick off the collaborative work of coming up with a single widget standard that everyone implements. So instead of developers being asked to build on X, Y or Z’s platform, they just build widgets and the user decides what platform offers them the most, since platforms will be compatible]

So what can we expect in the future? Messaging between mutually trusted widgets, Charles posited, and mash-ups between widgets – although that poses bigger technology and security challenges.

Widgets will be interoperable soon, he reckoned in conclusion. When you can take your widgets everywhere that’s when it’s really going to take off and make a big difference. So true!

Following Charles even deeper into the web domain (or at least, deep by MoMo standards) we got a short demo from Paris-based personalised homepage outfit Webwag who I’d just stumbled across a fortnight beforehand. Adding to the night’s predictions, their able COO and co-founder Florent Pitoun said that by 2010, 50% of internet users will have a personalised startpage.

Widgets on demand

In my opinion, the Webwag homepage is akin to that of Netvibes and Pageflakes, but it has unique strengths, as Pitoun demonstrated. They provide the facility to create widgets – including mobile widgets [UPDATE: enabled further by their recent aquistion of Mobease] – through their Widgets On Demand function.

Webwag will be LBS-enabled in the near future Pitoun added, and you can checkout what they’re doing at http://beta.webwag.com. He also demonstrated Webwag’s intra-widget communication ability between the Flickr widget and background widget, both on his mobile phone.

Then we had a quick talk from Ray Anderson, CEO of Bango. He made a call for interested mobile folks to contact him about the “web trigger” widget they are developing that will both collect user numbers, and offer the “read and sign terms and conditions” facility (if I understood him correctly).

Last up was Kaj “Hege” Häggman, the business development manager and inventor of Widsets (run out of the Nokia Emerging Business Unit) who also spoke at Chinwag Live Media Widgetised two evenings later.

Facilitating user-created apps

Given David Tollington’s and Charles McCathieNevile’s insightful contributions, and the limitations on time, he passed over the implications of widgets for a quick overview of the technology and usability aspects of Widsets. As such, it has a user-customisable UI; produces mobile mini-apps that perform a specific task; and is good for keeping an eye out for updates.

Widsets have an SDI coming out this summer that allows complex widgets for communities. They also facilitate user created apps – you can create a Widset for your business, or a Widset for your blog.

Widgetisation simplified

Collaborative filtering is important, Häggman continued. You can trust your community when it comes to selecting widgets for your mobile. What’s more, distribution channels will come pre-installed on all new Nokia models, and also on selected Blackberry, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and LG handsets.

They’ve also partnered with Netvibes to get mobile widgets on there, he explained. So why should content providers work with Widsets? Because they’ll get many distribution channels, it’s easy to do, all mobile technology challenges are dealt with by Widsets, the server is stable and it will enable new business models.

I loved how this MoMo looked at mobile development innovation from a broader web perspective without recourse to the standard mobile web 2.0 clichés. Opera, S60, Widsets and widget aggregator outfits like Webwag are very well placed to both benefit from and push forward innovation and convergence in this area.

Widget Week hypothesis proven?

It also dovetailed – far beyond my expectations – with my previously-stated view that the UK, Ireland and North-Western Europe as a whole is better placed and (currently) much farther ahead of the US and the Far East in terms of understanding and innovating in this space. Feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong.

However, that’s not to detract from the topical span of MoMo’s global chapters – which is *hugely* impressive. Check the worldwide MoMo aggregated events here: http://www.mobilemonday.net/community

Big thanks to Daniel Appelquist, Alex Craxton and Jo Rabin (the MoMo London trio) for running with my Widget Week idea. It wouldn’t have been the same without them. Hopefully we can get the web developer community properly on-board for Widget Week 2008!

[UPDATE: Rod McLaren of Mobbu has also provided a great write-up here, via Florent]

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7 responses to “Widget Week part 1 – Mobile Monday: Mobile Widgets

  1. Pingback: links for 2007-05-21 « John’s musing

  2. Pingback: Widget Week part 2 - Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised « Innovation Cloud

  3. I don’t know what possessed me at the time I was flickring the picture from my mobile phone; I was convinced that Alex Craxton billed you as “Brenda”. My apologies! Corrected now. :-)

    ps – widget week was a great success – congratulations!

  4. Thanks for the positive feedback Jag and no worries! Actually, I’m thinking of making Brenda my alter ego for public appearances ;-)

  5. Pingback: TomSoft » Widget week in London summary

  6. Hi,

    So far I have been reading lots of and lots of content about widget. But there is not one example step by step to teach how to make a simple AJAX widget. I always see partial information. I am using a Nokia E62 and its in built browser. Can you or anyone point me to link which tells me how to make a widget and test it as well. Are there some test servers which host testing Ajax mobile widgets. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I want to try making one and would share my experince to others once done.

    Thanks

    Murali

  7. Pingback: Micromedia futures or the emperor’s new clothes? « Innovation Cloud

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