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.

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