Samsung opens up TouchWiz development

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We’ll probably have some more details on this later today, but we’re able to spill some of it now seeing as much of it just went live on Samsung’s own site

If you haven’t been keeping up with all the latest in Samsung news, here’s what you need to know: Samsung’s got a widget interface called TouchWiz, which they’ve been rolling out across their touchscreen phones since around June of last year. You’ve got a drawer containing some widgets, and four flickable pages to toss these widgets onto. So far, they’ve got TouchWiz up and running on Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Samsung’s own proprietary OS. TouchWiz looks and behaves more or less identically on all of these platforms, providing some degree of uniform user experience across vastly different interfaces.

We haven’t been huge fans of TouchWiz thus far, largely because of its lack of expandability. Each TouchWiz-enabled device came with 10-15 widgets, and that was that. If you wanted to download more, you were out of luck. If you wanted to make your own, that was just too bad. That’s all about to change.

Later today, Samsung will be launching a TouchWiz section of their Mobile Innovator portal. With this, Samsung is officially opening up development of TouchWiz widgets to third party developers. Currently limited to the likes of world clocks and picture frames, TouchWiz may soon be jam-packed with Twitter widgets and fart buttons.

Not unlike applications on the Palm Pre, TouchWiz widgets are built with standard web technologies; it’s all HTML, CSS, and Javascript. While this means developers will be somewhat limited in what they’re able to do, such limitations are a bit less significant in the widget space than they are when creating full-fledged applications. Not many would expect hardware-intensive graphic rendering out of a widget, for example. On the upside, this means that porting widgets from TouchWiz on WinMo to TouchWiz on Symbian is a matter of testing and tweaking the CSS as necessary. No major rewrites from one language to another would be required.

Samsung’s Innovator portal will provide developers with an Eclipse-based development environment for widget creation. Additionally, Samsung is providing developers with a free virtual device laboratory, allowing them to remotely test widgets on virtual handsets. That way, you don’t need to own 20 different Samsung handsets to launch your widget on 20 different Samsung handsets. If you get stuck along the way or feel like sharing some tips & tricks with other devs, they’ve also provided a discussion board.

Details on how widgets will be made available to users are still a bit sparse, but Samsung has told us that developers will be able to offer their widgets “with or without charge”. Widgets will have to be certified before they’re made publicly available, though we’re not sure to what extent Samsung will be regulating.

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