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Vodafone's Joint Innovation Labs is open for business, promising to approve applications in ten days and eventually provide access to more than a billion customers.

The 'Lab was set up a couple of years ago by Vodafone and China Mobile, with the intention of setting standard APIs for AJAX-style applications. Those APIs were updated on Wednesday and developers can now submit their applications to Vodafone 360, with the option of hitting every Vodafone customer worldwide and taking the traditional 70 per cent cut of the sale price.

Computer Weekly reports that 20 price points are available, ranging from 50 pence to a tenner, with some variation for local currencies. Approved applications will appear in the Vodafone 360 stores of all the selected markets, and already run on 50 different models of handset including the flagship '360 models.

Those applications are developed using JavaScript/HTML/CSS, but JavaScript extended with special JIL APIs to allow interaction with local resources and other applications. The JIL is far from alone in promoting such an approach: Palm's WebOS applications work just the same way, and the OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Alliance) BONDI standard is supposed to provide the same thing - not to mention the W3C which is headed in the same direction, and various proprietary approaches.

Clearly there's a need for these standards to be merged, and that will happen eventually, but for the moment there are annoying differences in process and capability. JIL even offers a conversion facility, so widgets developed using engines from Nokia, Opera or Apple can be converted into JIL applications at the push of a button.

Verizon and Softbank are also signed up to the JIL, so a JIL-compliant application should eventually be available to more than a billion customers in more than 70 countries - which has got to be worth paying some attention to. ®

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