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Serence's world of widgets.

Widget. It's a pint-sized term for a powerful tool that's now making a serious impact on consumer desktops and corporate bottom lines.

The folks at Serence, Inc., an Ottawa-based company, have turned their sites to developing a full menu of widgets: Klip-Folio (a free collection for users), KlipFolio Branded Desktop Applications (bringing your company's message to customers), KlipFolio Dashboard for SugarCRM (just for SugarCRM), and KlipFolio Enterprise (giving users "real-time awareness of key performance metrics").

Allan Wille, president and CEO, said, "We're still just scraping the tip of the iceberg." The company, which launched in 2001, has survived and thrived on "sales and hard work" and what he considers "sweat equity." He said he's had plenty of aha moments and oh-no moments over the years, but making the move to focus on the enterprise side of widgets was a solid business decision.


Widgets took consumer desktops by storm when these mini-apps were first introduced. Clocks, calendars, stickies, weather, and flight trackers were among the most popular widgets to populate desktops. In fact, weather is the most popular widget in Serence's KlipFolio collection, according to Fred Dixon, vice president of sales. "Users have 4,000 widgets to choose from in KlipFolio, 90 percent of which [are] user-contributed. Developers use the toolkit to build their own widgets, and then, upload them to the KlipFolio collection for other widget users to use."

And while desktop widgets may not be new, the enterprise version has unleashed a world of possibilities. What's the value to the user? Dixon stepped in with a threefold answer: "Widgets can save money, save time, and produce effective marketing results." Serence's client list reads like a who's who for the Fortune 500: Staples, Lufthansa, IBM, PNC Bank,, Comcast, and Kluwer.

Preventing Pain Points

"Today, enterprises are finding two major avenues for widgets," said Wille. "They can be used internally for employee alerts, and they can also be used for marketing purposes that retain and drive traffic to the company's site." For example, when one company experienced an electrical outage, the company's desktop widget alerted 7,500 employees at once about the service disruption. "Ultimately, the alert prevented thousands of calls to the help desk," said Dixon. "For IT, this is a lightweight solution that only requires minimal resources." A simple widget can prevent an enterprise from hitting a pain point, he said. To make good decisions, you need good information. And the widget dashboard can be configured to reflect company or individual needs.

Staples' signature Easy Button widget is a mini-app that links directly to products as well as codes and prices with just one click. In the past, companies made appeals to customers via email blasts; today, widgets take the message one step further. The link to any enterprise can be just a click away. A company can push timely, targeted information via its widget to users' desktops quickly.

"You can't control email's effectiveness, but with widgets, you have more control over the message and delivery, and you can even personalize the message in the process," Dixon said. He was a bit surprised at how quickly widgets have gained acceptance on the marketing side. Publishers and online businesses have more exposure to RSS feeds, he said. Since widgets are a fairly natural extension of the RSS feeds, adapting to widget use was a relatively quick step.

When client Lufthansa sought a site license via Serence's platform, it was "the right time to move and the right opportunity" for the company, according to Dixon. "It's easy to get company data into the product and, when you want to deploy it, we have a product called KlipFolio Enterprise that can help get that information to user desktops." Enterprises can access Serence's product line and tools with a monthly subscription fee that covers licensing, support, maintenance, and daily usage stats.

Any of the KlipFolio widgets can snap into existing systems with little IT intervention, making them easy for anyone to install and use, according to Dixon. Dashboard widgets, such as those for Apple's Mac OS X v. 10.4, are created using HTML, cascading style sheets, and JavaScript. For example, the Google Search widget opens the user's browser and does a Google search, and the Wikipedia widget secures the Web pages and displays the content in the desktop dashboard. Users can add widgets by simply opening them through a menu bar and dragging the icon onto the desktop. After loading, the widget is ready for use and can be moved around to wherever the user wants them.

The Widget Summit

At the 2-day Widget Summit in mid-October in San Francisco, Dixon sat on the enterprise widget panel along with Jeff Ragusa from Google Apps Solutions. For 250 widget aficionados, the conference was a gold mine of information on building, syndicating, tracking, and monetizing widgets. This was the second annual widget conference; the first one held last year attracted about 100 innovators to the 1-day event.

The enterprise panel was a new addition to the conference lineup. While Ragusa spoke about Google's Web-based platform for search, email, and portals, Dixon focused on "our real-world successes," those customers who are deriving value from a desktop dashboard within the enterprise. It was great to be able to talk about our customers (Lufthansa, PNC, EMC, and IBM) and their deployments of our product," said Dixon.

From his standpoint, Dixon saw a few themes emerging from the conference:

* Companies are now springing up to support widget vendors.

* Last year, only the widget vendors attended the conference; this year, more companies are tracking widgets and managing ads in widgets.

* No companies seem to be making much money yet.

* Business models for widgets (companies that are in the business of building widgets) are still being worked out. Developers are starting to move from stand-alone widget platforms and to integrate them with social networks.

* Enterprise applications are still in their early days. Not many companies have started using widgets in the enterprise yet, but many of the companies attending the conference could see the value of a dashboard and alerting platform.

* Widget providers are starting to go vertical, such as the gydget platform for entertainment.

* Facebook is making a big impact. More than half the Web-based widget providers talked about their experiences creating widgets for Facebook, especially and

For Dixon, the Widget Summit served as a barometer for the emerging widget industry. He's the widget advocate. "They are small, easy to use, easy to install, and can provide plenty of value to a business," he said. And he's busy watching the horizon on the widget movement from Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! Desktop. From his standpoint, the industry buzz affirms Serence's focus on the enterprise.

"Facebook has widgets, and you're looking at 15 million users," he said. "The community is there already."
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Title Annotation:Behind the Scenes
Author:Brynko, Barbara
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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