This is a translation of an article that I wrote for a French blog, about “mobile widgets”. It’s a general introduction and description of the widget, and especially mobile widget concept:
So, what is a mobile widget:
A widget is generally speaking a small application, a little bit of code, that does one simple thing but does it well. The second important things about a widget, is that they can be combined together. The last one being the fact that usually, it’s fairly easy to develop a new widget (comparing to developing a full application).
To be able to run a Widget, you need a “Widget Engine”, which is the framework needed to run these micro applications. On the PC, the most popular is Konfabulator, and Dashboard on Mac OS-X. Web applications haves also their own widget, that can run within the browser, like clock, web counter, etc….These applications exists since a long time, it was called previously plugins, components, extensions, gadgets, but the real innovation is that it’s now in user hands: they can combine these widgets to create their own unique application. Typically, the user can choose to have CNN news, Paris weather, a Flicker photo stream, a clock, etc….
This approach fits particularly well on mobile world, where space on screen is limited, and where it’s not easy to switch between applications. Some companies like Widsets, Bluepulse, mFoundry, Bling and Opera have developed some widget engines. Not all of them haves the same approach, even if all of them recognize the filiations with Widget. Most of them are for the moment personal news /RSS reader (Widset) but extremely well done, others allows some interaction with the user (plusmo, mFoundry, etc…). All of these engines -except Opera widget – are for now available on top of J2me. The interest of widget is both for users and developers:
- For the user, he can create his own application buy choosing and customizing his widget set.
- For the developer, he can easily develop and deploy application for end user. Of course, not all application can fit into the widget description, but I believe that in the future, a good combination of Web/Ajax based application and Widget will fill 80% of the needs.
I recommend particularly two applications: Plusmo, which is in my mind on of the most interesting one but with a poor UI, and Widsets, which is the opposite: a great UI but the application itself is lacking of maturity. Of course, I am not any more objective as we (Webwag) also have a mobile widget engine.
I believe that Widget will be the equivalent of “Web2.0″ app for mobile: adapted to small screen size, solving in an elegant way the portability issue, providing real interest for the end user it’s certain that this kind of application will become more frequent in the future months.
Of course, there is still a lot of open question: does a “standard” wil emerge (see C.Enrique post
on this)? Can Desktop be reused on mobile? (I think that the question
is more “is there an interest to reuse desktop widget on mobile”).
If now widgets are in most of the case a way to access to some RSS content in an easy way, I believe that their scope will extend to integrate more interactivity with end user, and conquer more space on your phone sceen!
14 comments July 5th, 2006