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Orange conjures up widgety Djinngo

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Orange Developer Camp Orange has been pushing yet another widgets platform, this time with the magnificently Web 2.0 name Djinngo - pronounced 'gingo' - in the unshakeable belief that what the world needs is another Java-based widgets platform.

The mobile industry used to be obsessed with how many clicks it took to get to any specific feature or function - as though users could be seduced into using crap and overpriced services if only they could do with less finger-exertion. But a Java-based widgets platform is the antithesis of that - requiring the user to fire up a Java Virtual Machine to load the platform before they can access, or even find, widgets to play with.

We've already seen this with Nokia's Widsets, and Djinngo is very much a poor relation; less compatible, less stable and with fewer features, despite the enthusiasm with which Orange presents it. When asked directly why Orange bothered developing a rival for a platform of already dubious value the chaps from Orange tried to suggest Djinngo had more features, but other than a faster loading time it was hard to see any advantage that would drive developers to re-learn VRML to create content for the platform.

Yes - that's right, Djinngo widgets are developed in Virtual Reality Modelling Language. For younger readers: VRML was part of the last hurrah of the dot-com boom, enabling the representation of three dimensional space from within a web browser. It spawned some really cool demonstrations, including a marvellous model of London Bridge, and subsequently disappeared along with inflatable boardrooms and internal lawns - but apparently not on planet Orange where compatibility is something other people do.

The question of what madness possessed Orange to come up with Djinngo was asked several times during the camp - the developers responsible told us the name was deliberately chosen to be impossible to pronounce in proper Web 2.0, style and that despite having been launched the product would probably never emerge from beta. "We worship at the feet of Tim O'Reilly," said Patrice Slupowski. Presumably that's when he's not worshipping the iPhone with he freely compares Djinngo. "It's not the iPhone, the iPhone is something else [raises hand to above head height], but it's for people who don't have an iPhone [lowers hand to table level]."

Patrice did point out that most of the "applications" sold for the iPhone could more properly be described as widgets, though they don't require a platform, or manage the kind of background-updating that should be de rigour for any self-respecting widget.

And there are self-respecting widgets to be had - desktop systems support them nicely, and some phones have them. Orange pointed out the success of some Vista widgets the company has made available, not to mention the mobile widgets the operator has put onto the latest LG handset - though none of that is compatible with Djinngo, obviously.

Orange feels that punters won't pay for widgets, and has so little idea about how to make money from them that the company is launching a competition - sponsored by the Times Online - to try and discover a useful Djinngo widget with a sustainable business model. Answers on a postcard please.

Widgets on the desktop, and the idle screen of a mobile phone, no doubt have considerable utility - but another Java-based widget platform is about as useful as a hole in the head. Still, perhaps a good trepanning is just what Orange needs. ®

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