Vodafone, China Mobile and Softbank are putting together a Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) to accelerate the roll-out of mobile Internet services. They plan to formalize the arrangement later this year.
The mobile Internet is taking off with mobile subscribers are using services like Google Maps on their phones, but JIL will take things a step further, according to Mark Street, spokesman at Vodafone Group.
The first order of business is to develop a platform for mobile widgets, small, web-based applications that give access to information services including weather, sport scores, traffic information, radio broadcasts and language translators.
There are several advantages to widgets, according to Street.
"Using one, you don't have to open a whole web site, and they don't take so much screen size," said Street.
The JIL platform will have a set universal APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) making it possible for applications to run on different handset platforms and operating systems across different networks. The goal is to encourage Web developers to build widgets, according to Street.
More JIL projects are on the way, but Vodafone doesn't want to elaborate on what it will focus on next.
That these three companies are working together shouldn't come as a surprise: Vodafone owns a 3 percent stake in China Mobile, and they are already collaborating on trials of the upcoming 4G (fourth-generation) mobile network technology LTE (Long Term Evolution). JIL is also an extension of a deal made when Vodafone sold operations in Japan to Softbank, according to Street.