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Mobile Widgets and the Internet Experience

Craig Cumberland

Craig Cumberland is director of technology and application marketing for software platforms at Nokia.

DDJ:Craig, is there a difference between "Web 2.0" and "Mobile Web 2.0"?

CC: There are lots of people out there trying to define "Web 2.0," so I won't add to that confusion. However, I do believe there is no distinction between the Internet and the "Mobile Internet," as it's often referred to. The Internet is, the Internet, and whether you access it from a mobile device or a desktop or a gaming console, it is the same content. So, given that logic, Web 2.0 is conceptually the same and there would be no mobile version of Web 2.0. It's a long answer to a direct question, but it's an important distinction to make.

DDJ:What role do widgets play in this?

CC: I view widgets as an application bridge between two paradigms—the "Internet Access paradigm" and the "Internet Interaction paradigm."

That is to say that, prior to widgets, access to the Internet and its content has been about starting up a browser application and then accessing the desired content or service.

Widgets change that because the browser application is no longer the gateway, structuring access to content. Widgets allow for the creation, by developers and even direct consumers, of Continuous Content Experiences.

DDJ:Widgets have been around a long time—but on the desktop. So what's the big deal about mobile widgets?

CC: You're right, widgets have been around for quite awhile for the desktop, and you're seeing them emerge as additions to personal homepages and webspaces like Facebook, and so on.

But in a desktop environment, resources such as network bandwidth, processing power, and memory are not constrained in any way. So opening 5, 10, even 20 browser instances, tabs, windows...and slipping between them all to access and interact with a variety of content is the norm. And so widgets on desktops don't present a significant improvement in the content experience with the Internet.

However, widgets, as directed content experiences, have an immense benefit for mobile users because they allow people to personalize Internet content and interaction into lightweight web applications and stay current and active with the Internet content that matters to them.

DDJ: What's one of the coolest mobile widgets you've seen to date?

CC: Mobile widgets are coming to S60 devices shortly, so I can't really comment on any specific widget yet. But some very cool ones under development include travel-related widgets, such as flight trackers, currency converters, local weather services, and the like. You can imagine that in concept, anything you can design with standard web technologies, you can create a widget to enhance that interaction—taking into account the screen size of mobile devices. Examples can range from local traffic information while out on the road, to chat services, to following stock performance, or keeping tabs on your personal Internet auctions.

DDJ: Using Nokia's S60 as an example platform, how do you build widgets? What development environments? What tools?

CC: S60 widgets can be developed with a wide range of tools, from the S60 SDK's, which are available for download from www.forum.nokia.com, to web editors like Firefox's Firebug HTML editor tool and even simple text editors—depending on how bit-driven you really are. Any tools that can be used to write standard HTML, CSS, and JavaScript apps can be used to build widgets.

DDJ: Can mobile widgets participate in mash-ups?

CC: Absolutely, as mash-ups are primarily combinations of interactions with various Internet content and services, they would be great candidates for widgets. And as we are just starting to see mobile widgets emerge, I think mash-up widgets are just around the corner.

DDJ: Security is an obvious concern. What kind of safeguards can be put in place for widgets?

CC: Security is something we take very seriously and are determined to be active in the development of security controls and preventive measures. Widget support for S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 devices does not create additional security risks as these widgets work in a very contained subenvironment. This is often referred to as a "sandbox" security model that provides a tightly controlled set of resources for foreign programs to run in.

DDJ: Do you expect to see a central clearinghouse for mobile widgets emerge?

CC: I believe distribution of mobile widgets will follow a number of different paths, much the same as we have seen on the desktop and in web-based environments. But in addition to those methods, I'd expect to see carriers distributing them as part of key services, other vendors in the mobile ecosystem offering them, even potentially phone-to-phone sharing of them.

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