I’ve been experimenting with mobile development for the Palm WebOS environment (on their Pre and Pixi devices), and am finding it to be a pretty productive and novel experience. Their support of Eclipse, and their new web-hosted Ares development tool have the power to be a game-changer in mobile application development. However, Palm has some hurdles to jump over with regard to theirout of the box functionality now available to WebOS developers.
As I said, I’m heartily pleased by the Ares development environment; along with the WebOS plugin for Eclipse, I think it gives Palm the edge on ALL their competitors in developer tool support and productivity enhancement. That being said, I don’t think Palm will see the explosion of apps for WebOS they expect( & need), with the API offerings that are currently available. Here’s my logic.
It is well nigh impossible to develop any type of personal productivity application with support for legacy or desktop interoperability, due to the absence of basic file input/output capability. Development of Financial apps, media programs, third-party document reader apps, are all impacted by this, and a look at the historical Palm application base (which numbered in the thousands) suggests that there is a pretty good chance that these type of applications will still be very attractive to Pre/Pixi buyers.
Secondly, in the area of networking support, it should be noted that the corporate user needs more than just email and calendar access on their device: they will need tools such as VPN, application sharing, and remote desktop capability, among other things. Developing this new generation of Palm WebOS apps will not be possible without a significantly improved, secure and robust API that provides access to socket level TCP/IP network access.
Finally, Java. Java has become the de-facto mechanism for multi-platform application interoperability within a secure, controlled sandboxed environment. Exposing this capability on the WebOS device through a structured and managed API will allow Palm to not only continue to support legacy Java-based applets and midlets already in the mobile ecosphere, but also take advantage of the enormous pool of Java talent and development resources, and redirect it towards WebOS . This, more than anything, has the power to make WebOS the environment of choice for mobile developers.
I believe that providing these three core capabilities at the base level for Palms API/Services functionality in WebOS will enable Palm to leapfrog much of their competition, as well as remove the last significant barrier impeding rapid and explosive WebOS application development. I am certainly waiting with bated breath to develop applications utilising these functions on the WebOS platform, and the continued attention Palm is paying to developers gives me some hope that there is an understanding in the company of the current API limitations and great potential of the environment, once they are removed.