There’s been a lot of talk at the Nokia World conference about the coming together of Web 2.0 and mobile. But a lot of it’s just that: talk. It seems logical that people will want to do similar things on their mobiles that they will on Web 2.0 services, albeit with extra elements of location and/or search thrown in to take advantage of the mobile phone.
But in a less high-profile corner of Nokia, the Emerging Business Unit, they’ve already created one application that’s attacking this convergance head-on. It’s called WidSets, and its nearest parallel is the Dashboard widgets on Mac computers, in that it pulls down information from websites to your phone, via RSS feeds, into the WidSets Java application.
You can pull down news stories, blog posts, Flickr photo streams, emails and weather forecasts, to name a few examples. Okay, so it might just be a slick RSS reader with a graphical user interface, but it’s easy enough to use that it could appeal beyond the tech-head community. I talked to Nokia’s Kaj Haggman to find out more.
“We were all using Web 2.0 services within Nokia, and at the stage when we were thinking of what to launch next, we thought it would be really cool if you could get Web 2.0 services to the phone very easily,” he says. “And we had been using the widgets on Apple Macs, and also Yahoo widgets, so…”
The way WidSets work is you go to the website and enter your phone details, get sent a text with a WAP link to download the application itself, which works on any phone that supports Java MIDP 2.
Then, you browse through the library of existing widgets (WidSets is the application, and widgets are the individual thingies that get content from sites) and choose the ones you want, and hit the synchronise button to transfer them to your phone. From now on, they connect automatically to find new content whenever you run WidSets.
One clever aspect is that you can create your own widgets on the website, for example if you have a particular blog you want to read, and it’s not already one of the 900+ widgets in Nokia’s library.
“People ask me what’s the difference between a widget and a full browser,” says Haggman. “If someone tells me there’s something cool on the Web, I’ll go there with a browser to take a look. But if I’m interested in just one part of a website, and want to check it regularly, then I’ll define it as a widget so I don’t have to go back every day and check if there’s something new, but instead my phone will be updated.”
Don’t worry if you’re on an unfavourable data tariff either – there’s a traffic monitor which shows how much data each widget has used up, and an alert to warn you if you’re nearly reaching a predefined limit (useful if, say, you have a data limit of 5MB a month, beyond which you start paying arms and legs).
Most of the widgets are for individual websites or blogs, but Haggman says WidSets also has a proper Java scripting language, which people have used to create search engines, traffic cameras, and even games. There’s a Sudoku game already, and a simple fruit matching game too. But hang on, there’s whizzy stuff afoot…
“You can compare your high scores with everybody else who’s been using WidSets,” says Haggman (pictured left). “Our next idea is that we want to connect people to each other too, so they can play together.”
At the moment, you subscribe to the different widgets using the WidSets website, although there is a simple feature on the phone to add any of the most recently-created widgets from the handset. However, the next version – due to be released this week – will change that, allowing you to browse the entire library of widgets from your phone.
How about video and social networking though? They’re two of the biggest website categories – think MySpace and YouTube – but they’re not that well represented at the moment on WidSets. This is partly because Nokia isn’t targeting the biggest websites, says Haggman, and also a technical restriction on using the Java application with video. Memory restrictions, apparently.
For now, WidSets is available as a Java application which should work on most new phones. Next year, a more advanced Symbian or Series 60 version will come along. But for now, it’s well worth taking a look, downloading it to your phone, and seeing if Nokia is along the right lines with this whole Web 2.0 on mobile thing.
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