Will Context And Widgets Define Mobile 2.0? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/15/2007
03:02 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
Commentary
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Will Context And Widgets Define Mobile 2.0?

I am at Mobile Internet World in Boston. Everything here is Mobile 2.0 (though few people at the show seem to like that term). The three big factors defining the sessions so far is context, openness, and mobile widgets. But there is a lot of unce

I am at Mobile Internet World in Boston. Everything here is Mobile 2.0 (though few people at the show seem to like that term). The three big factors defining the sessions so far is context, openness, and mobile widgets. But there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding both of these emerging trends.Here are some highlights of Mobile Internet World so far:

* On Tuesday night at the pre-show kickoff, Google showed off the Android platform, including a detailed demo of how to actually build an application on Android. Unfortunately, I missed this demo, but hopefully, I'll get to see one soon (don't worry, I'll bring you all the details once I see the Google folks show off Android).

* Yesterday, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor and godfather of the Web, called for the mobile Industry to embrace openness and to finally let users have the real Web on their devices. He also painted a future where the ambient Web actively gives users information even without the need for active search.

* Nokia showed off its widgets platform. I had a chance to look at two different takes on mobile widgets yesterday. I spoke with Beth Goza from Zumobi about their new tile system. Zumobi lets users create tiles that allow quick access to a number of applications. The other mobile widget, Widsets, is a part of Nokia. Widsets lets users create widgets on their desktop, then access those widgets on their cell phones. I liked both solutions at first glance, though each offered a distinct take on mobile widgets. I hope to write reviews of both platforms soon.

* While everyone is talking about openness, no one seems to know what that really means for mobility. As I have pointed out before, mobile open source initiatives, like Google's Android and the mobile version of Ubuntu, threaten to further fragment a market hindered with device and OS balkanization (yes, I used that word again, deal).

Openness can mean all kinds of things. Open source, open software, open devices (unlocked cell phones), and open carrier networks. The promise of openness is that it will lead to the classic FBC formula (faster, better, cheaper). While open devices and open networks might lead to a better mobile user experience and a faster one (assuming Google Android works better than existing platforms like Symbian and Windows Mobile), but it is not likely to lead to cheaper cellular network access and it could lead to more expensive cell phones, at least in the short term.

I think the Internet and desktop giants like Google, Ubuntu, and Tim Berners-Lee are talking past the carriers and the traditional mobile community when they push openness. I also wonder if the carriers are a little afraid to look at the arrival of the Web giants, and what they promise. While I think the Web guys are pointing out the macrotrend, it will be a while before we ever see anything as remotely open in the mobile world as currently exists on the desktop. And even then, it will not be truly open, as the desktop Web is still not as open as it could be.

* As for context, the secret sauce here appears to be location and GPS. GPS is now a real part of the mobile market and its role will only grow, especially as users demand GPS on their smartphones.

I have to run off to join a panel, "The New Mobile IT Paradigm: Can IT Vendors Adapt?" I'll tell you all about it once we finish.

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