Are Widgets the future of Mobile Development?

Are Widgets the future of Mobile Development?

When I first saw that Widgets were going to be included in Windows Mobile 6.5 I thought that Microsoft had completely lost their minds.  If you look at a couple of the investments Microsoft has made into widget-like components in my mind they all fail when it comes to day-to-day users:

– Windows Side-bar: I know some people with large screens use some side-bar gadgets but honestly I couldn’t think of anything more annoying than a bar that takes up my precious screen real estate.

– Windows Side-show: Well exactly how many of these have you seen? Actually there seems to finally be some devices making use of this technology. Other than for driving a presentation by using a Windows Mobile device connected through Side-show I’m yet to be sold on this.

After spending a couple of days talking with mobile developers working with other platforms, and particularly those that were previously building on J2ME but are not building widgets, I think there is definitely an opportunity for companies to rapidly capitalise on their IP by building widgets that work across multiple platforms. 

If you look at the major mobile platforms (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, S60, Windows Mobile) they are all talking about, or already have, support for widgets.  Unfortunately as with the browser wars they all support a common set of functionality coupled with their own proprietary object model for accessing components on the device. 

From a quick look it would appear that S60 has the most advanced javascript object model, although talking with a developer building iPhone widgets I gather it’s possible to write code in Objective C that targets the underlying OS, making the iPhone the most versatile. We can only hope that Microsoft releases a widget object model that has comparable functionality, or at least a well documented way to extend it to interact with the underlying OS.

Windows Mobile Booklets

Windows Mobile Booklets

I was wandering around some of the shopping malls here in Singapore last night and noticed that a couple of the stores were actually stocking a range of Windows Mobile devices (a bit of a surprise coming from Australia where trying to find a WM device in stores is almost impossible).  Further more in one store I noticed these cute little booklets that are clearly aimed at attracting consumers to purchasing Windows Mobile devices.

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This is interesting from two points:

-Firstly, if the Microsoft team here in Singapore has these booklets (and they are clearly not specific to just Singapore) what about Australia.  Why do we not see these in stores?

-Secondly, and perhaps more of a concern, is why does Windows Mobile need these booklets?  Surely if the devices were “sexy” enough then we wouldn’t need supporting booklets that tout the benefits of the platform?

Day 3 of the Windows Mobile Metro Training in Singapore

Day 3 of the Windows Mobile Metro Training in Singapore

Today was the third and final day of the Windows Mobile Metro training here in Singapore and I got a bit of a chance to look out of the window of the Microsoft office.  It appears there is a significant amount of development going on around the port.

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Now, back to the class room and to complete the day we did a bit of a brainstorm on the pros and cons of Windows Mobile in comparison to other mobile platforms. 

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The good news was that everyone decided that the Pros of the platform generally outweigh the cons.  However, the biggest issue the platform faces is that of market perception – currently Windows Mobile has the perception of being an outdated platform with little or no road map.  In actual fact with the news surrounding marketplace and Windows Mobile 6.5 there are at least a couple of things that users can look forward to. IMHO what Windows Mobile needs is a range of aesthetically pleasing (read “sex appeal”) devices that consumers will line up to buy!

Windows Mobile Metro Training and Mobile Monday at Geek Terminal

Windows Mobile Metro Training and Mobile Monday at Geek Terminal

Today was the first day of the Windows Mobile Metro training in Singapore.  After flying up last night it was great to see a room full of people in building applications for the Windows Mobile platform.  With the news around Windows Mobile 6.5 hot off the press there is an increasing about of interest around Widgets and what other features there may be in the pipeline.  There is also interest gathering around Windows Marketplace for Mobile and the opportunities to commercialise investments made in building mobile applications.

As we were wrapping up for the day one of the attendees pointed out that Mobile Monday was on and that the topic was on Location Based Services.  This was particularly topical for the class as there are a number of participants who have an interest in using location services in one form or another. 

The following sign says it all – yes, this is where Mobile Monday happens here in Singapore.

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Entry was policed by this scanner – apparently I should have registered in order to be sent a 2D tag (similar in ways to Microsoft Tag) that I could get scanned at the door.  Honestly, what’s wrong with me dropping my business card into a bowl to gain entry? 

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The evening’s sessions were quite interesting with the main session being delivered by Y J Baik from Skyhook Wireless.

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This was followed by a panel discussion between a couple of local Location Based Service companies. 

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All in all a great way to finish day one.

nsquared Partners with After-Mouse.Com

nsquared Partners with After-Mouse.Com

Yesterday After-Mouse.Com and nsquared announced a partnership that will leverage the experience that nsquared has to date with building Surface applications. Whilst Surface machines are still not available within Australia it is becoming evident that they are of much interest abroad.  Dr Neil has recently returned from the second round of Surface developer training through Europe and there is continued interest in where this innovative platform will go from here.

Windows 7 RC with Toshiba M700, TrueSuite 2.0 and the AuthenTec Fingerprint Reader.

Windows 7 RC with Toshiba M700, TrueSuite 2.0 and the AuthenTec Fingerprint Reader.

Over the weekend I decided to pave my machine upgrading from the Beta of Windows 7 to the RC that was released late last week. It seems that every time I do a reinstall with Windows 7 it takes less and less time to get back up and running, and this time was no exception. The only snag I ran into was getting the Fingerprint reader working. 

In the previous build I just downloaded, installed and configured the driver/management software available from the Toshiba download site.  However, this time, it appears that this software clashes with the native support for biometric sensors built into Windows 7. When I go into the management software I kept getting “failed to open server” which I must admit isn’t the most helpful error messages. 

A couple of forums later I decided to do a reinstall of the software. After uninstalling and restarting Windows I noticed that Windows had detected the fingerprint reader itself and was going off to windows update to pull down the latest drivers.  After it had completed the setup I thought I’d go and see whether this would be enough to get the fingerprint sensor to work.  I’d been into User Accounts earlier and had noticed the “Manage your fingerprint data” option but with the previous, not working, management software installed I just got a message saying this functionality wasn’t supported.  image

Anyhow, now that I had uninstalled the management software, clicking on this link took me through to the new TrueSuite 2.0 interface (after entering my password of course).  Here I could select which fingers I wanted to register for logging in.

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The process of registering a finger was straight forward – three swipes over the reader and I was registered.  Another couple of swipes to register some other fingers (useful for when I’m running the tablet in different orientations) and I was done.  Start-L to lock my machine, swipe and I’m back into Windows – all in under 1/2 second (I wonder how long that will last for….)

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Now I’m set to do some real work now that I’ve finished playing configuring my system.