Vodafone's Betavine R&D Lab introduces "easy as pie" Mobile Widget platform, developer contest underway

What do you get when you mix HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Opera, select cell phones (for now) and a Vodafone Group’s R&D lab, Betavine? Mobile Widgets!

For anyone who has ever wanted to develop a mobile web-app but lacked the specific technical skills, Betavine’s new Mobile Widget platform may just be what you’ve been waiting for.

So what is a Mobile Widget? Betavine defines them as:

Essentially, Widgets are the new touchpoint for how users will access the internet on their mobiles. They are mini Web applications that reside on the phone but can be personalised to easily fetch relevant information from the web and present it to the user. They require a device to have a Web Run-Time (WRT) environment which enables them to behave like applications (rich GUI, can be used offline) yet are as easy to code and update as a mobile internet browser site. Consequently, widgets can deliver relevant, ‘always on’ services to users – they are typically based on 1-2 use cases, for instance, a simple weather forecast or an Amazon search feature.

Take Carsonified‘s “Slimline Twitter Search” Mobile Web Widget, Twiggy, for example (screenshots above). Ryan Carson and Co. built Twiggy in just 4 days (as opposed to the multiple weeks and/or months that a “full” app might take). Twiggy “is a simple mobile widget that allows you to search Twitter, right from your phone.” According to Carson, Mobile Widgets like Twiggy are the future of mobile app development:

The importance [of Mobile Widgets] is that [they] offer web developers and designers a whole new market to build for: non-iPhone devices (1M+ and growing). Also, the widgets, because they’re built in open web technology (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) will work on any device that has the Web Run Time. There is an exciting initiative called BONDI which is helping all the device manufactures agree on a set of API’s that will be consistent across all devices, that will give mobile widget developers access to device level functionality, like location and contacts. This means someone could build a mobile widget and it would work on a huge array of devices.

Furthermore, Vodafone (via Betavine) is currently offering mobile developers a chance to win £20,000 in its new mobile widget contest. Not only do they walk home with that hefty chunk of change, but:

The winner will receive a commitment from Vodafone to promote the widget to users in one of Vodafone’s major markets. Two runners up will also receive a £1,000 cash prize.

All developers submitting widgets will also have an opportunity to make their entries available through the Vodafone Widget Manager Beta application, which is currently being rolled out across a range of 10 popular S60 handsets in Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the UK.

The competition started began back on Feb. 2 and runs through April 30, 2009. For specific rules and more detailed information, head on over to the Betavine contest site. What are you waiting for? Start Mobile Widgeting!