Google appears to be setting up a kind of widget incubator program — like a Y Combinator/Startup Camp for widgets — according to a post over at Read/WriteWeb tonight. Marissa Mayer apparently announced the windfall… er, program at the Searchonomics Conference in Santa Clara. There’s a brief description of it here, and a FAQ here.
The program (Danny Sullivan has a good overview) is aimed at “bootstrapping an economic ecosystem around gadgets,” and involves two kinds of monetary offers to developers: the first gives Google Gadget developers a chance at a grant of $5,000 to develop their gadgets further (those with gadgets that have at least 250,000 page views a week are eligible), and the second is a “seed investment” of $100,000 to developers who want to build a business based on the Google platform. This second stage — which sounds a little like an angel round — is open only to those who have already had a grant.
The upshot? As Richard puts it: “It’s Christmas for third-party developers.” I would expect to see companies like Slide.com, the Max Levchin-owned developer that has several popular Facebook widgets and has been buying others, jump on board this gravy train. It will be interesting to see whether Google Gadgets spread farther than just the Google ig page. There’s a post about it on the Google blog, and one at the Google code blog.