It is reported that the CEO of IBM after the second world war stated that the market for computers would be five, whilst the CEO of Digital Equipment Company, (once the second largest computer manufacturer), stated he could see no reason for anyone needing a PC. With these errors in mind I have always tried to be rather careful about any predictions, or other statements that could come back and bite, but I have to say that I missed the importance of the Widget. Having co authored a book called MashUp Corporation- two years ago- which has as a central theme the use of MashUps to place the product for sale on other sites it’s a tad embarrassing to have to admit that this really would be better performed by Widgets.
Right now I see more and more use being made of Widgets in everything from Mobile Phones to Business Reporting, and why not? It’s another part of the extreme flexibility associated with the new approach to technology that Web 2.0 brings. A ‘widget’ is correctly defined as a (small) portable piece of code that can be added by a user to an existing Web page running on HTML and will run to produce an extended and personalized extra capability without any technology skill being required to make it work. The concept has been around from the earliest days of the Web, but in the last two years, (I am therefore claiming that this has happened after the data of the book!), as Web 2.0 interactivity has expanded they have become extremely widespread in use, and have spawned a variety of further names, including Gadgets, Plug Ins, Modules and Snippets.
The technology itself is not complex, the value, or expertise, lies in understanding how to use Widgets successfully for business purposes. In addition, and particularly with Smart Phones, a working knowledge of how to find, choose, and download widgets will enable a user to add a great deal of extra value to the services that they can use. Try this as a downloadable widget to allow a smart phone user with internet access to make it easier to find and read the Capgemini CTO Blog as an example
It’s this crossover capability that I find interesting, being able to take content from the (PC) web and inserting it into a format that is suitable for a Mobile Phone, that’s a real bonus, and a point not lost on Nokia who support the Widsets site. However the real beauty to me of Widgets is the ability for a business to create a widget that can deliver their services in a defined manner that they can control, but the format allows the user to decide how and where they can embed the Widget in their own solution. This is a really powerful example of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 principle of ‘services above the level of a single device, better thought of as meaning the recreation of ‘business services’ in forms to be delivered through Web 2.0 based ‘technology services’. Something at Capgemini we refer to as redefining business sector offerings into the ‘Sector as a Service’.
A good commercial example of this is from UPS, the parcel carrier, in an industry segment that has been revolutionised by online services, from MashUps over Google Maps, to booking collection with self printed labels. In this case the Widget will allow you to track up to 5 packages for which you have the tracking numbers for, and will display the status as one of the following: Pickup, In Transit, Delivered, or Not Available. It can be set to automatically recheck for updates every X number of hours, and provides a link to the UPS web page where you can get more detailed information about your shipments.
Given the focus the MashUp has had, and quite frankly its growing acceptance as a normal element in the range IT capabilities in use, together with main stream technology vendors like IBM add their product offerings to the first wave of specialist vendors it seemed that I really had to put the record straight and remind us all of the value that the simple Widget can bring. Oh btw the rest of the MashUp Corporation book still works just fine!