LG, RIM, Samsung and Sharp to support operator widget spec

The first phones that can run the software widgets will become available during the first quarter of 2010

LG Electronics, Research in Motion, Samsung Electronics and Sharp will all make mobile phones with support for a specification for software widgets set by a group of mobile operators, the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) said on Wednesday.

Phones that run the widgets -- small, web-based applications that give users access to information services including weather, sport scores, traffic information or translations -- will become available during the first quarter of 2010, JIL said. Network operators Vodafone, China Mobile, Softbank and Verizon Wireless are all members of the lab.

It's the first time that major handset manufacturers have committed to global adoption of the JIL widget standard across devices, JIL said. The move could mean a larger number of widgets for consumers to choose between, since platforms tend to get more popular as the number of users increase.

The first JIL-enabled phones in Europe will be Vodafone's 360 H1 and 360 M1, manufactured by Samsung, the British carrier announced in September. The H1 will start shipping in the U.K. on Oct. 30, according to a Vodafone spokesman.

Just like a plethora of mobile phone manufacturers and other network operators, Vodafone has started a contest to lure developers. The winners in eight countries will get €25,000 each (US$37,500).

The SDK (Software Development Kit) is still in beta and can be downloaded by registered users from the JIL developer website.

Developers will be able to distribute their widgets via operators' application stores, according to a statement.

Widgets have become an important part of the mobile Internet experience, according to Jonathan Arber, senior research analyst at IDC. While its good that the operators have seen their potential there is a risk for fragmentation as both operators and mobile phone manufacturers put out their own SDKs, he said.

Instead both camps should push harder for an industrywide standard, which would make like easier for developers, according to Arber. =

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