Breakfast and coffee at Devoxx 2009

18 11 2009

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Augmented Reality – Layar

19 08 2009

At the moment I see a very strong growth in the use of Augmented Reality on mobile phones. Augmented Reality, or short AR, is using the live camera view of your mobile and superimpose information relevant to where the camera is looking.

An example is looking around in a city with your camera phone and find a tourist information office. Or when you are in search for a new house, drive through the city pointing your mobile camera around and see real-estates sales information directly in your live view!

The information imposed into the live view is taken from various sources that include location information as well.

A company called “Layar” build a mobile application called Layer Reality Browser. They now also have provided an SDK/API so you can add layers yourself. An interesting technology and growing fast!


New Nokia Web RunTime

20 05 2009

In my last blog I mentioned some short comings about Nokia’s Web Runtime engine that is used for running the Mobile Widgets. However it seems this is already old news as Nokia has released a new Web Runtime engine which now includes support for a device API by which you can now use device services like:

  • JavaScript API’s for Contacts, Calendar, Location, Landmarks, Sensors (e.g. Accelerometer)
  • Homescreen widget development, preview and debugging
  • Support for Touch during development and debugging
  • Support for both Macintosh and Windows platforms
  • New Device Previews during development

And to top this, on the Nokia N97 it is now also possible to have “mini” widgets on your home screen so you can display information from different widgets. You can easily download the new Web Runtime (beta) for the Aptana studio through Nokia’s tools pages here.

Vodafone Mobile Widget Camp – 2/05/2009

14 05 2009

Two weeks ago Vodafone organized an event called the “Mobile Widget Camp”. This event was to introduce Vodafone’s answer to an app-store and demonstrating how easy it is to create a Mobile Widget. As a mobile internet developer I am of course interested in all mobile development but especially mobile widgets which looks to be a very promising technology. And so I was attending this event on a beautiful Saturday in Amsterdam.

The event was held in an old warehouse called “Pakhuis de Zwijger” and set a nice environment to receive all the people that signed up for the event. The audience was divers, from sales to web developers.

The agenda was very simple and basically can be chopped up in three parts. In the morning there was a lot of listening to interesting presentations. Then lunch and in the afternoon two parallel sessions, a Widget workshop and Widget hacking with support.

So the morning started with a good presentation by Patrick Leenheers who is the head of Vodafone Internet Service Netherlands quickly followed by other presenters from Vodafone and other (mobile) internet guru’s like Elliot Kember and Peter Paul Koch.

Interesting was that during the presentations the presenters made clear that this is not a Vodafone technology! Vodafone is offering a platform in which you can upload your widget and easily make it available to millions of Vodafone subscribers in different countries. As of September it is even possible to charge people for downloading your widget; here the 30/70 rule will be applied. This means that Vodafone will take 30% for offering the platform, testing the widget (probably automatically) and making it available in the portal. The other 70% is your cut.

As the presenters explained mobile widgets are not a Vodafone technology, then what kind of technology is it? Actually building a mobile widget is based on HTML, CSS and JavaScript and all three are W3C standards. So this means that any web developer can create a mobile widget application using their standard web development environment like e.g. Firefox with Firebug! And there are a lot of web developers out there.

To make the mobile widget act like an application the phone needs an application manager. This is something that will be preinstalled on Vodafone mobiles and hopefully also on other devices as well. Also it is possible to download and install the application manager separately. Basically the application manager is responsible for starting and controlling your mobile widget. It starts a mini browser (Opera) without the frame and navigation buttons so that it looks like your app is running as an application but in fact is a web page. This last part is crucial because you can now make your widget available in any (mobile) browser that supports the W3C standards. So you only need to develop your widget once and you can make it available on any web page or mobile internet browser – such as the iPhone or Android phone. A good example of this is Twiggy created by Elliot Kember from Carsonified.

To continue the walkthrough of the day; after a good prepared lunch and after having talked to some web developers I decided to attend the workshops that were given by Vodafone developers. It was a step by step workshop which you could follow on your laptop and at the end you had a working mobile widget. Very good and it illustrated how easy it was to develop a widget if you have good knowledge about HTML, CSS and JavaScript (mostly the jQuery library was used).

In the Widget hacking room people where developing their own widgets with support from, yes again, Vodafone developers. They helped setting up the development environment, which basically only needs installing some software. Vodafone provides in their SDK an application to easily start a new mobile widget project using a small wizard. When the wizard is finished you have a directory structure set, configuration and an index.html are created and you can start working on your widget.

Now everyone on the event was creating widgets! With about 140 people attending the Mobile Widget Camp there should of course be a contest, and there was. At the end of the day about 12 widgets where quickly demonstrated to the jury who picked out four widgets to be demonstrated live on stage and a winner was chosen by means of applauding of the audience. The fun part; the people that where already working for three days on a widget – which by the way looked very nice – did not win. It was actually someone who really demonstrated how easy it was to create a widget by reusing some code taken from the internet and quickly molt it into a widget. This is what this day was all about.

The event was organized by the same team who also organizes the Amsterdam Mobile Monday event which is very popular among the mobile internet community in the Netherlands. The event went very smoothly and well organized, even at the end where it was a bit unstructured when everyone tried to demo their widget. The organization kept everything on track and on time!

I think the event clearly showed how easy it is to build a mobile widget. It is easy because it is based on already existing and proven technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The only downside of this technology is that there is not yet support for: a device API, operator API, no monetization of the app portal and only a limited amount of devices is supported at this moment.


Mobile Widget Camp event (including all presentations of this event):

Pictures of the event:

Vodafone Mobile Widget SDK:

Vodafone Mobile Widget App Portal (Beta):

Twiggy Widget

Elliot Kember

Peter Paul Koch

Mobile Monday Amsterdam