Pocket Full of Widgets

Widgets go mobile--with companies vying for a chunk of the change.
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This story appears in the July 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Widgets are simple, self-contained applications, typically with a single purpose. For years, they've existed on desktop computers, offering weather reports, sports scores, newsfeeds and more--but that's old news. Now they're moving to mobile phones, and entrepreneurs are salivating at the opportunities to develop these applications.

"One of the main advantages of widgets is [that they] give you information at a glance," says Eric Lin, an editor at Phonescoop.com, a resource that offers mobile phone news, reviews and more. However, Lin warns that entrepreneurs who want to be successful developing mobile widgets need to provide good value to users.

"The vast majority of widgets are just [snippets of] RSS feeds that don't really provide an advantage over an RSS reader," says Lin, who notes that some Sony and Nokia handsets have built-in RSS readers. To be successful, Lin says, entrepreneurs should create widgets that offer useful data beyond a simple RSS feed.

But if widgets have taken off on desktop computers, why haven't they exploded on mobile devices, too? The problem, says Lin, is that third-party mobile widget creators have yet to find the ideal platform that will allow widgets to be constantly updated in real time, the way they are on desktops. This roadblock will exist until carriers figure out new data plans.

Fortunately, many companies are already providing opportunities to develop widgets for them, including the aforementioned Nokia, as well as Alltel. And other applications, such as Helio's On Top, are positively widget-esque.

Keep in mind that Apple's iPhone, which includes mobile widgets, is making a splash in the mobile phone arena. Although Apple states that iPhone widgets are not open to third-party developers, the iPhone will likely be at the forefront of the mobile widget boom. "I have a strong feeling we're going to see Apple opening [the iPhone] up the way it opened up games on the iPod," says Lin. With Apple and other companies laying the groundwork to take widgets mobile, it's up to you to supply the widgets.

Edition: July 2017

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