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April 16, 2010

W3C Widgets + Android

So how ubiquitous can W3C Widgets become in the mobile world? While we've seen commitments from all the feature phone players, there has been reluctance by Google and Apple to support the spec. However, Android is open source, and could potentially be a W3C Widgets platform - extending the number of apps in the Android marketplace, and the number of users for W3C Widgets. Sounds like a win-win to me, and so it was great to go to a Londroid meetup to talk about it.

I gave the "intro" talk, with the slides below, which was really setting the scene for "HTML+JS+CSS+Device APIs" as the logical development platform for mobile, rather than Java SDKs or Objective-C etc.

Some good questions were things like how far we were with device API specs (answer: BONDI there already, W3C DAP will take longer), and handling different form factors (answer: CSS and SVG go some of the way, but its still no less of an issue than for native apps).

Later on Anselm from Aplix gave a very nice demo of the Aplix Web Runtime for W3C Widgets running on Android, which can add W3C Widgets to the home screen, run them in a widget manager app, and also wrap them up as regular android apps. This was great stuff, exactly what I wanted to see, but unfortunately there is still uncertainty over how it might be licensed and distributed - its quite possible there will be deals with networks to put this capability on their Android handsets, rather than make is open source; I can see the logic in that as there is clearly some very heavy stuff going on under the hood for the device API mapping that was probably very difficult to develop.

However, the main thing it said to me is "this is doable", so we may well see an open-source equivalent come out, not as speedy (Aplix has a core written in C) or as comprehensive (Aplix maps all the BONDI, JIL and DAP device APIs into widget features) but perhaps good enough to get developers started.

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