Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who is Palm trying to attract for WebOS development?

I must say that my first impressions of what Palm is offering in terms of the WebOS leaves me curious.

I wrote for the Palm OS over a long period of time. I started my Palm OS development when Palm were US Robotics and programmed the original PalmPilot. The PalmPilot was an amazing achievement for the time.

There were a few things that attracted me to the original Palm OS platform, but a major one was that I could use my C++ skills to create robust and high-performance deliverables. The Metrowerks Codewarrior environment was a joy and I could use the same IDE for Mac OS (then Mac OS 8!) and Palm OS development.

I think that it is reasonable to state that the original Palm OS attracted seasoned software developers; a lot of them were also Mac developers that understood things like usability.

I am little surprised to learn that the WebOS is a Javascript world for the developer. To me Javascript is a language that evolved i.e. it does not appear to have been well thought out from the start. I am not attempting to criticise Javascript here - in fact I think that it is amazing what has been enabled via Javascript in the context of a web browser. I also understand why it has evolved the way it has. The thing is I am just surprised that Palm have chosen Javascript as their primary programming environment for WebOS. Who exactly is it that Palm are trying to attract to their platform?

I suppose what I am saying here is that while Javascript can be written in a disciplined manner, I do not often see this to be the case. I am therefore curious about the quality of applications that will be delivered to the WebOS.

I think that Apple have things almost right with the iPhone SDK and that Google have it completely right with Andriod. Where Apple need to improve is simply to provide a notification mechanism for an application. The notification handler should be able to operate in the background. The original Palm OS provided such a mechanism for handling alarm and other events. The benefit was that you could get an application to do things as a result of various device stimuli. This capability is very important and the iPhone falls short in this regard; so much so that I cannot consider porting my Palm OS based Titan Class Vision software.

In the case of Google I think that the choice of Java is correct. Java is a great way to deliver robust software and rich in its tooling. However Google have to solve the battery life implications of their environment which presently make their phone unusable in many quarters.

I digress slightly. The question remains though, who is Palm trying to attract for WebOS development?


Peter B Marks said...

Given that developers who want to develop for mobile phone platforms are probably going to want to deliver versions for several of them, it's a pity they're all so different.

I wish a standard had emerged for widgets, like yahoo and dashboard. Surely that would be a portable way to run apps on multiple devices and the idea of a widget kind of suggests small screen size.

Apple tried to make us deliver apps as web sites but there was an outcry. Apple made some tough choices (no background tasks) but if they win on battery life that's surely wise.

It's great to see several viable mobile phone operating systems out there at last, I'm sure it will lead to innovation, but the success of a platform depends on the developers they attract and the space is looking very fragmented.

Christopher said...

Hey Pete,

Thanks for your post. I concur on all points but wanted to mention that I believe Apple can manage background notifications without compromising battery life. I might post my ideas on this separately.

My take is that Apple have not recognised background notifications as being important; may be it isn't in the majority. It is for me though. :-)

Thanks again.