Widgets are coming to Series 60 handsets this Fall, bringing tiny pieces of content onto the application menu of the world’s best-selling smartphone OS. The S60 Web Run-Time builds upon the existing open source technologies in the S60 browser and provides a development experience very close to Apple’s Dashboard widget environment. The widget software will be available in version 3.2 of Nokia’s operating system due out this Fall. The Series 60 operating system is currently installed on over 85 million mobile devices produced by Lenovo, LG, Nokia, and Samsung.
Any developer familiar with widget development inside personal homepages or Apple’s Dashboard environment should be able to easily port their work to Nokia’s S60 widget environment. Both Apple and S60 use the open source WebKit browser engine to render widgets. The mobile platform requires a few specialized changes such as adjusting how you collect a user preference such as a ZIP Code or a Flickr account name and altering your graphics display for a mobile phone’s small screen, colors, and resolution. WeatherBug ported their Apple Dashboard widget to S60 and claims the entire process took about 5 days.
The Web Run-Time and its widget environment is separated from the rest of the operating system for security reasons, but Nokia does plan to expose more functionality in future releases. Future widgets will be able to receive GPS data, access a local address book, and possibly even place phone calls. Imagine a widget responding to its local environment, narrowing a local search to 5 minute walking distance, and possibly messaging your nearby friends to come join you.
S60 users will be able to download new S60 widgets directly to their phones from the Nokia mobile portal and from the WidSets distribution site. Any widget can also be sent to your phone and swapped with friends using the built-in Bluetooth connection.
Nokia smartphones are not readily available in the U.S. but they are a dominant force in Europe. Mobile-savvy European customers will soon have a new way to access their favorite mobile content inside a richer user interface than a traditional mobile browser window. Web content is as close as the quick launch bar, allowing web applications to earn their spot on the phone’s home screen.
Apple’s iPhone will have similar functionality on a larger display at a higher resolution but limited to EDGE cellular data transfer rates and latency. Both Nokia and Apple will be subject to the content wishes of mobile carriers, who could continue to make life difficult to place content on a mobile handset utilizing their networks.
I’m a fan of the new S60 Web Run-Time as yet another way to extend the reach of web content through widgets. The announced features open up the world of mobile content to developers with a web authoring skill set and creates a lot more content for the S60 platform.