I Love WebOS Programming!

webosFor the last 8 or so years, I’ve been writing apps for the Microsoft Pocket PC (and subsequently the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS) devices. In the early days, I was making some substantial income selling these apps on the Internet, however, my software sales have gone down every passing year to where I’m making just enough to cover my minimal operating expenses. I don’t think you can even buy a new Pocket PC PDA these days, as most people favor using their smartphones with the same integrated features. So in my opinion, the Windows Mobile OS is a dying platform for application developers.

The popularity of the Apple iPhone has created an entirely new arena for application developers. The iPhone’s best feature is its applications, and owners are definitely buying these apps in large volumes. As such, I looked into the possibility of switching my development efforts from the WM OS to the iPhone. To do so, I would have to purchase an Apple Mac computer as well as an iPhone with AT&T service for testing. I would also need to learn Apple’s Objective-C programming language and the entire process for writing an iPhone app. This would require lots and lots of time and money on my part, something I didn’t want to invest at this time.

When the Google Android phone appeared on the market (through T-Mobile), I investigated programming for that platform since it was based on Java programming. Google provided a Windows-based emulator that seemed to work quite well, so I wouldn’t need to buy a new T-Mobile phone immediately for development and testing. As I began my research and investigating, I realized that programming for the Google phone was just too difficult. Google’s documentation was too sparse, and it required developers to dig around and experiment to figure out how to use advanced feature calls. I tried for a month to learn and develop some Google Android apps, but ultimately gave up because the learning curve was way too steep. In hindsight, I think the decision to not develop for the Android phone was a good one, since I don’t see these phones selling like the Apple iPhones.

A few months ago Palm reinvented themselves by releasing the Palm Pre phone which runs the new WebOS operating system. It is very much like the iPhone and Android phones, but all of its applications are based on javascript and web-page programming. So the Palm Pre basically acts as a small web server, displaying web pages and using javascript for function calls very much like a standard web page on the Internet. Since I am a web site developer (on the side), creating applications for the Palm Pre didn’t require a lot of education (as with the iPhone and Android OS).

I’ve been working with the WebOS for the last few months and I really love it (having a good Windows-based emulator is really helpful). I can very quickly create useful and nice looking apps, and I don’t have to drop down to the low-level C progamming language to do so. I just finished writing a electronic wallet app for the WebOS and I’m now writing a companion application for my Desktop Vista PC, and I’m just dreading it. After writing for the WebOS, having to go back to Microsoft Windows C-programming just seems archaic! Lots of mind numbing coding, abstract system function calls, etc. I feel like I’m back to the dark ages again. I know I can use some higher level programming languages for Windows (like .NET) but I don’t want to invest a lot of time learning those languages.

So, I’m planning to stop all Windows Mobile OS application development in favor of the Palm WebOS platform. It’s fresh new ground, and I’m hoping to duplicate the initial success I had with the Pocket PC platform with the WebOS. I’m also looking at getting a Palm Pre Pixi phone with Sprint Service when it comes out next month, so I’ve definitely decided to invest my time and money on this platform. Good luck to Palm and their reentry into the smartphone market!

4 Responses to I Love WebOS Programming!

  1. Jared says:

    Did you end up getting the Pre?

    Trying to decide on which platform to develop for at the moment is tough. If only we could predict who would come out on top 🙂

    At the moment If you want to make any money I don’t think you can go past the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple have really done a great thing with the App Store.

    It’s in the mentality of the users. When an iPhone user wants some new functionality they think I wonder if there is an App for that? I don’t think that existed in the mobile market before.

    I hope it rubs off on users of other phones. Honestly I can’t stand the apple closed system and I really hope Android comes out on top.

    I found your blog looking for people with media centre computers. If you also own an iPhone check out my remote control app at: http://www.kared.net/rk/

    – Jared

  2. zunetips says:

    Jared: I don’t have a Palm Pre as of yet. I’m waiting for the Pixi version to come out (hopefully next month). I do plan to get one and continue with developing on that platform.

    For me to develop iPhone apps, it would be a huge investment in time and money. I’d need to get a Mac for one, and I’d need to teach myself Objective-C, etc. In addition, there’s tons of iPhone apps on the App Store while the Palm Pre is new unexplored territory. Lots of room for developing apps.

    I currently have one app in the Palm reviewing process. I don’t know what it’s like with Apple, but Palm is being very picky and careful to what products they accept and how they look and function.

    One thing is for sure, I’ve given up with the Windows Mobile device programming. It’s incredibly difficult to write an app that runs on so many different devices that have so many different shells on top of the Windows Mobile core. Just a nightmare to test, debug, and get working properly. My two cents…

  3. Jared Kells says:

    Yeah true,

    I think Apple intentionally raise the barrier to entry for Apps to keep the junk out. $1000 USD phone, $100 USD per year development license, $2000 USD computer.

    I actually wrote my first app on an old PC with hackintosh installed on it as I couldn’t afford a Mac.

    The apple store is definitely a flooded market. I think Android is going to be the growth area at least in the next 12 months.

  4. zunetips says:

    I looked into programming for the Android when it first came out, but it was simply too hard. Specifically, there was very little documentation and/or examples to do basic operations. Since I’m not a hard-core Java developer, it was hard for me to “guess” at what the included modules would be, etc. It’s definitely for those with a solid Java programming background.

    That’s why I like the Palm Pre, as it is Javascript-based and the required skill set is more web page building than hard core Java programming. Of course, I’m sure you can do more things with Android via Java than the Palm Pre using Javascript. For example, on the Pre you can’t create a file on the device. So you can’t even create a text file (such as when you might want to create a backup file, say). That is a big limitation put in place for security reasons, no doubt.

    Eventually, I think Palm will correct such limitations, including expanding to actual compiled executable (like Apple did with the iPhone).

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