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Verizon clocks on at the widget factory

One billion customers to share application store

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Verizon has signed up to the Joint Innovation Lab set up by Vodafone and China Mobile last year, pushing the (potential) customer base for the as-yet unpublished mobile-widget standard to over one billion.

Verizon joins Softbank, as well as Vodafone and China Mobile, in the operation that was set up just shy of a year ago to create a standard widget platform. This was prior to the OMTP publishing its BONDI standard and Palm revealing that widgets will be the primary application platform for its Pre device. The Joint Innovation Lab goes further in promising a cross-network-and-device application store and payment system to service those one billion customers.

Widgets - fragments of HTML and ECMAScript - are very much the flavour of the month, and are already supported by several Windows Mobile and Symbian shell replacements. But to increase the functionality one needs certification of widgets, digital signature verification and pre-installed certificates, things that both the OMTP and the JIL are still working on.

The JIL reckons they'll have developer tools out later this year, including a specification, developer kits and "an online repository, distribution and payment mechanism to ensure developers can roll out their products to customers in more than 70 countries across North America, Asia, Europe and Africa", or an application store by any other name. The inclusion of payment and distribution means a single repository, and a single certification authority for fully-featured widgets.

Getting devices to support the platform just means leaning on handset manufacturers, which shouldn't be too hard given the roster of membership, and the process has probably already started.

Much of this would seem to duplicate the work done by the OMTP on BONDI. The OMTP has never had aspirations to run any kind of distribution network and Vodafone told us that harmonisation with BONDI is a "long term goal". The OMTP is clearly hoping that compatibility will come sooner than that, and that it has the momentum to ensure that everyone gains from making the widget platforms compatible - as long as industrial politics don't get in the way. ®

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