Last night's Mobile Monday was focused on Widgets as part of a larger programme in London. Sitting and listening to the presentations, it was like a Digital People event in 2001 at times the difference being that the hype came from established companies.
Now the fact that Widgets are something that allows users to open windows to the web on non -web pages amongst other things is a tool that might just drive Mobile Data. However I have a problem in that whenever I look at an analysis of YouTube it shows that most of the visitors are passive rather than content generators, therefore Widgets need to be extremely simple to use and personalise if they are to go mass market.
If Widgets are to be something that is used more than the FM radio on a Phone they they need to replace the idle screen rather than be drilled down for on the handset. If they stay somewhere in the menu too many people will find it very difficult to frequently use. So in placing the Widget on the idle screen you have an issue with power management. I do not want something that will see my battery fade faster than if I was stuck on the tube for a morning!
The next problem I have with Widgets is that at times they fail because the Network is broken. Last night I decided to try Widgets on the two phones that I carry. The first is a Sony Ericsson P990i on Orange all the way home I could not get a data connection that was usable, this is not uncommon with the 3G network I usually find myself having to downshift to GPRS to check my email. How why would Orange want to upgrade its data network just so I can use them as a transit service? So far they have not shown any will to do so; in fact they are making it harder for customers to personalise handsets and services, the last two handsets they have sent me have been locked to an Orange profile which means a number of functions have been removed to force the user to use Orange alternatives.
My other handset is a Windows Mobile device with HSDPA on the T-Mobile network. Here the issue is far simpler the midlet manager just does not seem to be able to run the widgets that i downloaded. Maybe it will be better when I have upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.0 but I am not too sure.
Too many of the presentations last night used the same quotes on the future of Widgets. At present I fear that Widgets could end in the same group as Video Calling, MMS, Mobile TV and Mobile Gaming the great white hope for alternative services! Widgets need to be something that are easy to find and install, preferably they should be on the handset when you get it. That means they need to be supported by the Networks. Thus I fear that Widgets might be still born.