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6/22/2007
06:33 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Will Widgets Make The Mobile Web Better?

The iPhone holds two big promises for the mobile Web. The first is that users will begin to rely on it as much as they currently do the desktop Web. And the second is that widgets will be the answer where previous attempts to i

The iPhone holds two big promises for the mobile Web. The first is that users will begin to rely on it as much as they currently do the desktop Web. And the second is that widgets will be the answer where previous attempts to improve mobile usability, like WAP, failed.Apple isn't the only one banking on mobile widgets, either. Many mobile developers are betting on widgets. Nokia last fall announced widgets for the S60 platform.

As for a definition of mobile widgets, Jag at Route 79 offer perhaps the best layperson's explanation I've read to date. In this post Jag explains the nature of widgets, cleverly quotes the Eurythmics, and makes the case for mobile:

And so, whilst the public at large are still to get used to the idea of widgets making their lives simpler on their desktop computers, the conveyor belt of hype is already churning out the concept of "mobile widgets." Yep, today you can get widgets on your computer, tomorrow you'll get widgets for your mobile phone. When tomorrow comes you'll be able to collect widgets (from a universe of widgets out there) for your mobile phone, using your mobile phone.

And the theory goes that because widgets are small, single-purpose morsels of goodness which don't take up much room on a screen, they're much better suited for mobile phones because for anything to work well on a mobile phone it has to be small (there isn't much space on a mobile phone screen), simple to use (like with one thumb and a pair of eyes) and take up zero brain cycles (because using a mobile phone has to be zero-effort). Some people go so far to say because of this mobile phones will actually drive the explosion of the widgetosphere.

Now, don't get me wrong. Apple isn't betting that the iPhone will spell the end of the browser. Quite the contrary, they're making one of the biggest pushes for the mobile browser I've seen to date by using Safari to forge a tight link between the smartphone and the Mac.

However, based on what I saw today in Apple's new iPhone video, it sure looks like the iPhone relies on widgets to make the device easier to use. And if the iPhone really is this easy to use, then you can bet we're going to see more widgets soon.

Earlier this year, I questioned the future of the mobile browser. Now that I think about it, I think the widget, and not the browser, could be the future of the mobile Web. A future where users download and swap widgets and use them for their core tasks, and rely on the browser for locating new information outside of those widgets or for getting tools (like new widgets).

As for mobile business, widgets seem just like the solution this market has been looking for. On Tuesday this week when I was at Enterprise 2.0, everyone there was talking about how widgets will be the future of enterprise applications. If the iPhone succeeds in forging the trail, we could see a world where Web-based enterprise apps scale and interact seamlessly between desktop and smartphone.

What do you think? Will the widget form the base of the mobile Web? And will the iPhone lead us to this future?

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