Physical Widgets: Round 3

More physical widgets to come: just discovered this Korean company, emtrace, that is preparing a “WidgetStation“. Not a lot of information on the widgets (all the usual ones seems to be there) and how to create them, but I really like the idea. The bad thing is that design could really be improved, look like an old fashioned meteo station…. Targetting US market for “first half of next year”…So wait and see.

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Identity and mobile

Digital Identity will be without any doubt one of the big challenge in the coming months. Why? Because of two important trends:

  • The explosion of services targeting segmented needs: from generic ones (email, calendar, feeds) to community oriented (MySpace, pictures, etc…)
  • The “mashup/widget” trends, who gives the capacity for end user to aggregate these services to create their own unique application

Each of these service require usually an identity (most of the time a username/ password)
As an illustration, this excellent picture summarize the complexity of the various indentities that you use


(source: FredCavazza blog)

So what happens practically?

Today, you have to create a new login password for each new service you subscribe. The subscription is painful, you enter  again your coordinates, if you are lucky you can choose your username/password, if unlucky you are given a password if not an username. So one more to rememer….

The Digital Identity try to solve this by bringing a different mechanism: instead of having to register each time to a new site, the site get a part from your numeric ID and you just have one click to authorize it. Does not mean that they all sites haves the same right , you could provide them different level of access to your personal information if needed.

Seems quite complex, but when well implemented, could be a really good user experience. You can “feel” the concept with sites like Flickr, where third parties can access to your data without having to ask you your username/paswwrod. You can even easily revoke them at any time.

What is the impact on mobile?

Identity management on the web is painful, but it’s a nightmare on mobile. With more “Mobile2.0″ capacities (i.e. more data services) users will want to access to their web data on mobile. The bad news, is that not only you will have to retype all these username password, but with a keyboard not designed for this…

The solution
A decentralized Digital Identity approach could easily solve all this problem. By having the ability to easily provide your digital ID to applications (and in an ideal world , linked to your SimCard) these one can discuss with an ID server to ask for informations, and you are just one click to authorize them (which is a small effort even on mobile).

Does this will happens?
On the short term, it won’t be pushed by operators, as they are the only one that can easily knows user identity, and that’s a unique advantage from their point of view. But by opening this, and give easy access to third parties it could boost service usages.
There was various attempt from Operators, Third Parties (Sun’s Liberty Alliance for instance) to solve this issue, but none was really succsefull yet in terms of useability, most of today practical solution are still username/password based.

Conclusion
Mobile requires even more than the Web a standard Digital ID approach due to both technical constraint of the mobile and the increase of data services available. The mobile already have the technical basis to do this (SimCard for instance) but no real solution has been yet put in place. So we can only wait more to see if existing Digital Signature solutions from the Web will move to mobile….

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Mobile Web2.0 (The Book!)

I had some time this week to go through the excellent Ajit Jaokar and Tony fish book about Mobile Web2.0. Even if I must admit that I sometime disagree with Ajit on “MobileWeb2.0″ vs “Mobile2.0″ (which is not only a mobile web browsing experience), there are many interesting aspect in the book.
The main trends that will drive Mobile in the future are clearly explained, as well as some topic that I follow closely like MobileWidgets and Location Based Service. I especially like the chapter about factors affecting Mobile 2.0….So it’s the first book (and probably not the last) book on this very hot topic, which is already a reference.

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The widget environment of the day….

During the Widget2.0 conference, Fox , the parent company of MySpace, just announced the launch of a new widget platform, based in Flash: SpringWidget
Well, another new platform! I see one issue with Flash widget from the content creation side: they requires a paying authoring tool (Flash from Adobe) and alternative are not really mature. Again, a good tool for designer, but not so easy to use for most of average users, as it require a learning curve (longer than HTML?).

W3C to standardize Widgets?

In the same time, the W3C started a draft about Widget Of course, from what I can see it will be totally incompatible with this new platform! The scope of this draft is very limited for now, and mainly speek about description of the widget itself. So it’s unclear how far this will go, and if some topic like cross widget communications, user preferences saving, authentification, access to native functions will be adressed.

Widgets families

In order to have a better view about the widget landscape, I’ve tried to find whath are the major difference between the various engines/implementations…

Name Rendering engine Scripting language Execution framework
Googe Gadgetl HTMLbased Java Script Desktop+Browser
Yahoo!Widget Custom XML based Java Script Desktop
Opera Widget HTML based Java Script Browser+Desktop
Dashboard HTML based Java Script Desktop (+Browser?)
Spring Widget Flash Action Script (ECMA Based) Desktop+Browser
VistaWidgets? ? Java Script? Dekstop+Browser

The obvious trend is about HTML+Java Script, with an execution environment being able to execute widget both on Desktop and within Browser.

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Mobile2.0 event feedback

Unfortunatly, I was not able to attend to what seemed to be an interesting event. However, Mike Rowehl made partially an analysis of the event, but also had great comments about the various actors:
Mobile2.0 – Didn’t Quite do it

I really like these one:

  • Lots of people looking to publish new content for mobile were upset about the number of browsers and incompatible standards they needed to be familiar with in order to get anything up and online. However the
    people working in mobile for a while were pissed about anything that tried to plaster over all the differences they’ve spent years learning the ins and outs of and building up adaptations for.
  • People coming from the web world insist that the only real way to get mobile used is to make sure that mobile and the web integrate well, that there should be seamless blending of the web and mobile. People coming from places without fixed internet access yell and scream that we really need to stop shoving the web into their perfectly usable mobile only environment.
  • Mobile service providers list the myriad ways that people developing mobile applications and content can simply and easily put their content up online and start making money from it. People with mobile content and applications moan that none of the methods for publishing and monetizing their content and applications come anywhere near the simplicity they need, and they just can’t bear the margins provided.
  • Existing web publishers keep telling us that mobile is just too early to try to make money off of, don’t bother trying yet cause the ecosystem isn’t ready. However people with novel new applications (the ones that are most well positioned to respect the context of mobile implicitly) have no chance to bring their disruptive application to fruition because the only way to make money is to bolt on a crappy web experience as well.
  • People working on standards for the mobile web and application programming environments can list for you a complete alphabet soup of acronyms describing the millions of ways in which mobile application development will be better just a few months from now. People working on applications feel like the standardization efforts take way to long and don’t deliver anything that really makes their lives any easier.

Sorry for copying this more or less directly, but is it soooo true…

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Gmail for mobile: near perfect….

Photo Gmailmobile I finally had GMail client application working! The program was always complainging with the following error: “This program require a working connection. Check your settings“. My settings were good, and it was obvious that the connection was on-going between GMail and their server.
In fact, the problem was that my GMail account had a default language which was not english (in that case french). So switching it to english solved the issue. Surprisingly bad user experience for a Google application.

Anyway, the program is working fine, and already a hit. I will not go into the details, C.Enrique made a nice “review” on it…
Just some though:

- compared to all others mail program that I was able to test, it’s from far the most easiest to use, and the most readable. It shows how complex it is to create a simple to use UI (this is not a framework issue, but a usability issue)
- shows also that except from my small connection issue, most of the mobile are ready for mass deployment of connected applications. Mobile2.0 is heare, and it’s a perfect exemple of the power of synchronisation vs browsing (and for me, this is a mobile Ajax application).
- MIDP still have some works to do, especially on the ability to launch one app from an other. Today, no way to launch GMail client from Opera Mini, or from a Widget engine. You need to exit, and find the app by yourself. Should be solved by “JSR211, content handler API”, but there is still no handset implementing this JSR!
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