Exploring Betavine, Vodafone's Open Mobile Application Community

Back in January 2007, mobile phone operator Vodafone launched an open source community portal called Betavine which was initially destined to become the research and development space for the company.

It grew up to become a place where anyone can come "to find and share information and experiences about making applications on any technology platform whatsoever"; it is therefore not limited to Vodafone technologies or products, in other terms, they are platform agnostic.

Betavine has been getting kudos from the open source community for launching Linux drivers for mobile broadband dongles for a number of Netbook computers. In addition, support for open standards such as W3C is engrained in Betavine's DNA.

The site also offers a virtual Academy, which is a learning centre where novice developers can learn about mobile technologies, how to create a good mobile user experience and even how to set up a mobile business.

Members of Betavine can download and test applications for free; there are no charges to become a member and eventually one can choose to become a Betavine developer. Developers have the added benefit of having access to Application Profile tools and Developer's Log tools.

Vodafone's aim being ultimately to create buzzing communities through interaction between the developers and the testers. Unsurprisingly, it counts some of the biggest names in the mobile market as partners; these include Opera, Microsoft, Samsung and Symbian.

Over the summer, Vodafone has started a Summer of Widget campaign aimed at encouraging people to develop and submit their widgets to Betavine. Each week, a few widgets are selected and the winners receive a Samsung NC20 and a Nokia N96 bundle.

In parallel, Vodafone has a widgets developer platform website which allows the developer community to create and publish widgets across a "wide range of Vodafone markets"; it contains ore than 2000 widgets across a dozen categories.

There are currently nearly 420 applications currently available for 15 different platforms. Interestingly, more than two years after Vodafone launched Betavine, one of its biggest competitors followed suit with its own platform and may find it difficult to catch up with them.