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Nokia admits killing off Widsets

It was the Finns, behind the Ovi, with the candlestick

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The first effective platform for mobile widgets, Widsets, was killed by Nokia back in April - but no one noticed as the company successfully obfuscated the murder behind Ovi.

Nokia's all-encompassing brand Ovi has swallowed up several services including Download! and MOSH, but unlike the other services Widsets was a platform on which widgets could be developed and deployed - among the first, and certainly the most influential, of such platforms, having been launched in October 2006.

Nokia is still saying that Widsets has "evolved into Ovi", or that the service has been "moved into" the Ovi store, which is true for many services, but not for Widsets. When we tried to get absolute confirmation of Widset's demise out of Nokia we were first told that the platform was alive and well, under the Ovi brand. When we pointed out this didn't appear to be the case, we were told that more technical people would get back to us, then that they were all busy celebrating mid-summer, then that they were on holiday, and finally that Widsets as a platform is dead - something that even Wikipedia hasn't yet noticed.

Widset developers are, of course, welcome to create new apps and sell them through Ovi - they could even create widgets for Symbian's Web Runtime - but code developed to the Widsets specification now has nowhere to run.

Widsets wasn't a great widget platform, but it was a pretty good one, and the first to properly demonstrate what widgets could do on a mobile phone. Users could add and remove widgets dynamically, using their mobile handset or a desktop client that mirrored the mobile experience including personal account details - though not terribly well.

By hosting widgets in a Java client Widsets was supported on any Java-enabled handset, and came pre-loaded on some Nokia ones, but the use of Java also made it epically slow to launch on most platforms.

Once it had loaded one could scroll around its extended-desktop interface and view one's widgets, some of which would still be updating as developers used the platform to try out new ideas and see what was possible. Widget versions of Minesweeper probably didn't do the concept justice, but a widget version of Dilbert was welcomed and the platform was alive with widgets for the weather, sports scores and suchlike, all developed in "WidSets Scripting Language" - a proprietary language which exposed much of Java's functionality to the widget developer.

However, Java is out of favour these days; everyone wants to use AJAX for their widget development. So the latest Nokia S60 handsets support Web Runtime for widgets and Widsets became a distraction for developers, and Nokia, so had to be killed off. But to disappear without a trace, deleted from history and destined to be described as a forerunner to an online store with which it has nothing in common is an ignominious end for a platform that showed how widgets could make the mobile internet better, even if it never managed to achieve that itself. ®

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