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BONDI gives mobile widgets a day in the sun

Alliance counts Opera and LiMO as friends

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The Open Mobile Terminal Alliance has launched version one of its Web-2.0-widget platform BONDI with a reference implementation, software developer's kit and endorsements from Opera and the other Linux consortium.

BONDI is a selection of extensions to ECMAScript (the scripting language formally, and informally, known as JavaScript) to give digitally-signed scripts access to phone functions, including location, contacts, camera and messaging functions - enabling a scripted application to integrate with the phone environment in just the way that iPhone WebApps failed to do.

The OMTP is where operators are supposed to say what they would like to see, while manufacturers and software vendors nod sagely and go on to incorporate a completely different feature set more suited to their aims than those of their customers. Browser developer Opera has just become involved with the OPTP, along with the not-Android-or-Access Linux consortium LiMo, which seems to be under the impression the world needs three flavours of Linux for mobile phones.

But regarding mobile widgets, most of the industry seems to agree that a standardised set of APIs would be good for everyone. Still, Sony Ericsson recently told us they saw the proprietary Xperia "Panels" as a platform differentiator - so not everyone is singing from the same songsheet quite yet.

Ericsson is an OMTP sponsor and Sony Ericsson an advisor, so hopefully they'll come round to the idea of a standard platform, or implement both in an attempt to confuse developers and users equally. Implementing BONDI isn't technically very difficult, but securing it is: only "authorised" applications will be able to access the BONDI APIs. It's still far from clear who will be doing the authorising.

Network operators are the obvious choice, and would like the opportunity to further reduce churn that way - "leave us and all your applications will stop working!" But manufacturers won't stand for that, and neither will users, so it's far from clear who will be signing the apps that are allowed to run on BONDI-compliant handsets.

Not that there are any such handsets yet, though there is a reference implementation that runs under Windows, so developers can start to get a feel for the platform and what it's capable of. The project is consulting on both the technical details and the security mechanisms, the latter of which will most likely be the detail that will make or break the standard. ®

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