Personally, it’s nice to see Google heading in that direction because it’s exactly where we’ve been headed with the Wyaworks Widget Creator (disclaimer: I consult to Wyaworks on product development and strategy). While the Google Widget maker allows users to create simple, fairly static widgets, the Wyaworks Widget Creator enables you to build your own full-blown, database-driven widgets.
I’ve got to say, even I’m surprised how useful I’ve found these. My company is now standardising on the Pageflakes AJAX desktop as our Intranet platform and I’ve got about a dozen widgets running across our shared Pageflakes tab for various functions like HR, editorial management, project management, etc. Each of these widgets has taken about 5 minutes to create, they can all interact, and I can personalize them to match our business processes precisely. We had been using Google spreadsheets for these kind of ad-hocs applications, but the problem with that is that they’re difficult to find and never really at hand.
John Hyde, CEO of Wyaworks has added a host of functionality since they were first announced. Security has been added, they run across iGoogle, NetVibes and Pageflakes, columns can be sorted, data sets can be restricted by field values and widgets can share information and fields. Widgets can be created by simply adding fields, or alternatively you can turn any spreadsheet into an AJAX desktop widget by simply importing a spreadsheet. We took a spreadsheet of customer records, imported it, and bam, we had a customer contact management widget, automatically populated with our data in a matter of seconds. Being able to access this kind of information, all from your AJAX desktop makes this kind of information incredibly accessible and easy to use.
I’m convinced that some type of webtop, or AJAX desktop, will become most people’s home page and online hub. I predict that within the next couple of years, every web application will have widget-versions of their applications that can be integrated into this kind of environment, or else they will incorporate their own AJAX desktops – that’s the way we’re heading with our MediaConnect and ITJourno portals. Most likely, it will be both.
It’s nice to see this idea start to pick up pace, when Wyaworks is so clearly the market leader in this space. I still think the killer feature with these widgets it the cross-platform capability. The openess of AJAX desktops means you don’t want to be tied into any particular desktop, so you really want to be able to take your widgets with you. While iGoogle, Netvibes, and Pageflakes are supported right now, Wyaworks has the potential to allow widgets to be deployed to any platform and with this market moving so quickly, that’s an incredibly important feature.