China Mobile, Softbank and Vodafone have agreed to establish a Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) to promote the development of new mobile technologies, applications and services. It will focus on mobile internet services, starting with mobile widgets. The first plan is to develop a platform for mobile widgets to encourage the development of new services that can make use of the unique features of mobile carriers, with the obvious hope that third parties will then develop applications to run on the platform and increase the carriers’ customers’ use of mobile data… the JIL is keen for vendors and developers to cooperate with it. The plan is for the widgets and applications to run seamlessly on different handset platforms, operating systems and across different mobile operators.
Each carrier brings something pretty significant to the table. China Mobile is the largest carrier in the world, Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) is in the most countries and Softbank is in one of the most advanced markets…sure, it’s not the biggest carrier in Japan by a long way, but it’s done a good job of turning around the trainwreck that was Vodafone Japan. If all three carriers deploy the platform it would be a very attractive place for developers to target applications — although one issue would be the different languages and character sets that would have to be accounted for. If the widget is able to compete in the Japanese market it might give a boost to data usage in the other countries.