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Yahoo! joins rush to get widgets onto mobile phones

There will be platform independence, this time

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Yahoo! has announced its intention to support third-party widgets on its mobile platform, promising platform independence and rapid development. The announcement came in a presentation at the CES event, currently taking place in Las Vegas.

Widgets are small applications, generally written in JavaScript or similar, which provide a single function such as displaying a stock price, or local weather conditions. Already popular on Apple Mac computers the concept is coming to mobile, and AJAX offers a measure of platform independence, or at least rapid porting.

But two things prevent the wide-scale adoption of mobile widgets: the availability of a widget-hosting environment, and the truly unlimited data plans which such communication-intensive applications require.

Yahoo! would like to solve the first of those problems by opening up its mobile-web portal, and their "Yahoo! Go" Java client, to third-party widgets. But these approaches require the user to launch the application or load the website to view their widgets, which is never going to be as compelling as having them always available and running.

Nokia have developed a widget-hosting environment for their S60 platform, though that's still only available as an emulation. Their Java-based Widsets is much closer to what Yahoo! is planning, but the limited recognition of that (free) application demonstrates the importance of widgets being native to the handset rather than hosted within another application.

But even if Yahoo! can solve the memory-resident problem, and present widgets seamlessly integrated into the phone experience, they're still going to have to address the lack of properly unlimited data plans - at least in Europe, before mobile widgets have the chance to demonstrate if they really are what people want. ®

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