Palm Pre WebOS Development Has Gone Public!

palm_preFor the last several months, only a select group of developers were allowed access to the Palm Pre SDK (early access program for developers). All that were accepted in the program had to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep what they were seeing in the beta SDK confidential. Fortunately, I was one of the select few who were accepted into the program about a month ago, so I have had some time working with their SDK. As of this morning, Palm has officially released the SDK to all developers publically, so anyone who wants to create Palm Pre apps can now do so.

Here’s a few comments I have regarding the Palm Pre SDK:

First, Palm was stating that a person with HTML, CSS, and Javascript experience could develop Palm Pre apps. The idea was that a person with web site developing skills could easily create Palm Pre apps. Being a person who has created web sites using HTML, CSS, and some Javascript, I thought I would fit into this category, however, that was not the case. I discovered that creating basic apps that mimic web-page operation is doable, but you do need extensive knowledge of the Javascript Document Object Model (DOM) to effectively use the Palm Pre’s widgets (buttons, lists, selectors, sliders, etc). If you don’t know DOM very well, then you’re in for an uphill battle (as with my case). So for those new Palm Pre owners who are expecting to create these wonderful games and apps using the Palm Pre SDK with just basic web site development knowledge, you’re in for a surprise.

Second, the Palm Pre does have some severe limitations, such as:

  • You can’t install a database file (or any file) along with your application. So, if you expect to include a database file containing reference data for your application to access, you won’t be able to do so on the Palm Pre.
  • Theoretically, database files are limited to 5 MB on the Palm Pre (to adhere to HTML5 standards).
  • There is no way to download or upload files to the Palm from the Internet.
  • There is no way to access the calendar event database, so a 3rd-party developer won’t be able to create any “Today Agenda” applications.

Finally, there is very little WebOS programming documentation available. The only material is online from the Palm site, or the O’Reilly “Rough Cuts” book (or rather pdf file) that you can purchase. The “Rough Cuts” book’s material is rather limited, with the author’s main example being a single and complex RSS News Reader application. As a new Palm Pre developer, I find myself struggling with understanding what components of the Javascript programming statements are standard Javascript, Mojo, or DOM. Most of my learning is by trial-n-error and studying the few examples that came with the Palm Pre SDK.

Luckily, I was able to take a week off of work and dive into the Palm Pre development. I’ve figure out how to use and manipulate the various Mojo UI widgets, as well as how to work effectively with the HTML5 SQL database routines. I’m now working through how to use the Mojo encryption routines, and I’ll start building my first application. Hopefully, I won’t run into any major snags along the way.

So as a result of my findings, I don’t believe that Palm Pre owners will see a flood of new applications that they are waiting for. They might see basic apps that were converted from existing Javascript codings, but you won’t see the more advanced Mojo Framework apps (like the built-in apps) in the near future. Hopefully, some quality apps will slowly appear over the next 6 months that will make new Palm Pre owners happy.

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