The death of Palm WebOS

August 21, 2011

Last week, HP announced that they were discontinuing the sale and development of HP/Palm WebOS devices. This includes both WebOS smartphones (Pre, Pre2, Pre3, Pixi) as well as the recently released Touchpad). The timing of this announcement was absolutely shocking, as even the direct Palm employees and management in the Sunnyvale, CA office didn’t see this coming. Aside from this, HP also is dumping their PC division which is also a shocker.

As a WebOS apps developer, I’m very sad to see this happen. I’ve been to two Palm Developers Day events in the Sunnyvale office, and I have to say that the Palm employees are great to work with. Palm really treated their developers well with support and hardware, so it’s a shame to see all of that disappear. HP is backpedaling a bit now, saying that WebOS will live on, but I highly doubt that. With no existing hardware, app developers jumping ship to Android, iOS, or Windows Phone 7 development, and Palm employees leaving for greener pastures, how will WebOS survive? It might go into hibernation, but over time that will most likely make it an extinct product.

This is unfortunate, as I believe that WebOS is the best smartphone OS currently available. It does do true multitasking, and their card concept works very well. Personally, I stopped my WebOS App development when Palm switched to the new Enyo SDK which required a fundamental shift in programming methodology from the previous Mojo SDK. In hindsight, it was a good move as it gave me time to spin up on Android OS development and get a head start in porting some of my existing apps to the Android platform.

Sorry to see you go, WebOS. RIP.


Smartphone Transition

April 16, 2011

I’ve been using smartphones for a number of years and find it valuable to have the Internet at my fingertips while on the go. Accessing my email, web pages, and GPS-enabled maps for navigation has been great while on business trips. I started off by using a Motorola Windows Mobile 5 device, then upgraded to a Palm Pixi WebOS, and now I’m using a Verizon iPhone 4. I really like my iPhone 4, but I may have to turn it in as I’m looking for a new job and this phone is provided by my current employer. So what new smartphone should I get?

The iPhone 4 is nice and I know I would be happy with it, however, it is on the Verizon network and my family currently uses Sprint. I’d prefer to stay with Sprint and get a new line on my family’s plan, so getting a Verizon iPhone with a new account, etc. has its drawbacks. HP/Palm has re-entered the smartphone market (after delays during Palm’s acquisition), but their new Veer and Pre 3 phones won’t be available until this summer. Besides, the Pre 3 is a bit too chunky for me and I’d prefer to not have a slide out keyboard. I’ve seen “spy photos” of a new Pre phone that looks appealing (it actually looks like my iPod Touch), but who knows when that will be released. Finally, there’s a bunch of Android phones available on the Sprint network including the Nexus S Google phone which looks really nice (with the new Gingerbread OS version).

Whichever phone I choose, I want to make sure I get the same functionality as my current iPhone 4. I started by examining the apps that I current use on my iPhone, and it turns out that they are all available for the Android smartphone as well. I’ve used the Sprint Navigation app in the past as well as the Verizon Navigation app (both I like), but I noticed that the Nexus S won’t have any Sprint apps loaded. Fortunately, it will have the new Google Nav app which apparently works just as well (or even better) according to the video I watched on Google’s site. So I think I’m covered there.

Finally, I really want a phone that will have enough juice to last me through an entire day (7 am through 7 pm). My iPhone 4 has great battery life, and if I switch to an HP Pre 3 or Nexus S Android phone I’ll need to have equivalent battery life. I have a feeling it will be close, so I do need to take that into consideration.

So for the moment, I’m leaning towards getting the Nexus S Android smartphone with the Verizon iPhone 4 closely behind. I’d consider the HP Pre 3 as well once it is released and I can check it out (although I still don’t like its slide out keyboard). Decisions, decisions…


What’s up with Palm WebOS?

February 5, 2011

Since HP started the process of acquiring Palm, there has been little activity in the release of new Palm smartphones. Palm came out with the Palm Pre and later the Palm Pixi, but the next few releases were just enhancements of those two models. More memory, slightly faster processor, the inclusion of WiFi is nice, but users want NEW handsets released on a regular basis. Six to eight months seems to be the usual life cycle for smartphones these days, and Palm is way behind in that respect.

What’s even worse, is that the big cell phone carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T) have all but stopped selling the Palm WebOS smartphones (no doubt, because they are “old” in the consumer’s eyes). Sure, Palm has release the Palm Pre 2 to some carriers, but that phone is just a slight variation of the original Palm Pre.

As a developer, I find that I want to write apps for the smartphone platform that I currently own and carry around with me. For the last year and a half that would be the Palm Pixi smartphone. But I’m coming up on my 2-year contract date and will need to decide what to do. At this moment, I’m waiting for Microsoft to release versions of the Windows Phone 7 smartphones on the Sprint network (CDMA). The WP7 OS looks really fresh to me, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity in selling apps for that platform. Microsoft announced last month that CDMA versions of their WM7 phones will be out sometime in  the “first half of 2011”, and I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later.

The big red herring is what HP/Palm will be announcing next week on February 9th. They have some big news they plan to release, which has been speculated as new smartphone handsets and/or WebOS tablets. The HP CEO stated that people will “drop their iPhones and iPads” when they hear the big announcement, so we shall see. I’m hoping they don’t simply announce a WebOS tablet since that is something every electronics company has already announced and would be a big disappointment. Nor, do they announce another WebOS smartphone which is simply a repackaged Palm Pre design. If they come out with some revolutionary, new hardware with a revamped WebOS that would really catch my attention. Especially if they have plans to sell the hardware through several different cell phone carriers and within 4 weeks of the announcement. That, would be truly remarkable.


App developer’s dilemma

February 5, 2011

I’ve been a mobile app developer since the early Microsoft Pocket PC days (circa 2001) and I’m amazed at the selection of smartphones currently available. You have the Apple iPhone, Google Android OS, Palm WebOS, Blackberry RIM, and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 OS devices as the big players. So as a developer, which platform should you choose to develop apps for?

You really can’t developer for all of the platforms, since coding for one usually isn’t easily transportable to another. For example, the Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) use Apple’s Objective-C programming language for app development (which you need an Apple computer also). The Android OS requires the Java language, and the Palm WebOS requires Javascript (or C++ for games). Microsoft WP7 requires Microsoft’s own programming language (C# (or Visual Basic) and Silverlight), so as you can see you would need to be trained and skilled in many, many different languages for creating apps for multiple platforms.

So as a developer, you need to make some tough decisions if you want to create apps to sell for a smartphone device. In most cases your time is valuable, so you want to minimize your efforts and maximize your profits and results. I have been in such a dilemma, and here are my thoughts:

For all of the platforms, the Apple iPhone definitely has the biggest online app store. They have tens of thousands of apps available, free and paid. In my opinion, a new developer creating apps for the iPhone would easily be lost in this sea of apps, and the prospect of making a decent return on investment is quite slim. In addition, you need to own an Apple Mac to do such development and also learn the Objective-C language. Developing iOS apps has a steep learning curve and something I’m not willing to do at this moment for the possible return.

The Android OS is in a similar position as the Apple iOS, in that there’s thousands of apps already available. Most ideas for apps you might come up with have already been created. Java is a very popular language and if you already know it, then you’re more than half way there. Android developers use the Eclipse IDE (which is free) and it runs on many different computer platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux). I’ve found that the Android development tools are not the easiest to work with, but they are all free and readily available from the Internet. I’ve opted to not pursue developing Android apps since I don’t know Java and it would be a huge effort to get up to speed in that language. Now, I have not excluded writing Android apps, but at the moment I’m holding off any serious development effort with that platform.

I’ve spent the last year or so developing apps for the Palm WebOS devices, and I find it very easy to do. If you’re a web site developer and know HTML, CSS, Javascript you can create WebOS apps. Palm uses the Eclipse IDE and it’s fairly easy to code up your apps. As with the Android, you can do your development on a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine and all the development tools are free.

The biggest issue I have with WebOS app development, is with Palm. Palm has been very supportive of their developers, but it’s been over 8 months without them releasing any new smartphone devices. Since the acquisition of Palm by HP, handset releases have been non-existant. Sure, Palm release the Palm Pre 2, but that’s basically the same design as the Palm Pre. In fact, a lot of cell phone carriers have dropped selling WebOS smartphones so a developer must question if it makes sense to begin or continue developing for WebOS devices.

Microsoft released their Windows Phone 7 OS devices last year, refreshing their old Windows Mobile OS to something that is comparable to the iPhone, Android, and WebOS touch-screen devices. Amazingly, a lot of pundits like the new look of the WP7 OS (including me). Even though there’s not many WP7 smartphones on the market (GSM version only available), I believe Microsoft will throw lots of money at the WP7 project and won’t give up until they grab a big part of the smartphone market segment. As such, the total number of WP7 apps currently available is the smallest of the smartphone group, which in my opinion is a good thing for developers. This means more opportunity to create useful apps and games that will be noticed in the online catalog. Once you’ve established yourself and have good ratings, you will be in a good position to make considerable profit as more WP7 handsets are sold.

So do you develop apps for the iPhone, Android, WebOS, or Microsoft WP7 smartphones? Which platform will give you the biggest profits? If you have a “killer app” (like Angry Birds) I’d say go with the iPhone and/or Android since they have the biggest user base. If you’re a Java programmer, then go for the Android OS. If what you really know is HTML/CSS/Javascript, then dive into WebOS app development. Finally, if you know C#, Silverlight, or Visual Basic then check out the WP7 platform.

What am I planning to do? That’s a tough question to answer at the moment. I’ve pretty much decided to focus on two platforms: WebOS and WP7 since I already have apps selling on both platforms. I’m concentrating my efforts for the moment on WP7 since it seems to be an easy platform for creating nice looking apps, and their app store is low in quantity of good apps. But, I’m keeping my eye on what HP/Palm will be announcing next week on February 9th. If they announce some incredible hardware and the release of new app SDKs then I may drift back to that platform.

The smartphone industry is quite dynamic at the moment, so a developer needs to stay alert and keep all their avenues open.


Sprint dropping the Palm Pre smartphones

November 15, 2010

This posting on precentral.net seems to indicate that the wireless carrier Sprint will be dropping the Palm Pre from their lineup of smartphones. Sprint was one of the original carriers of the Palm Pre line of phones, and now it seems to be dropping them completely. Sprint began selling the original Palm Pre over one year ago and later sold the Palm Pixi, but never carried the improved Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus phones.

I have a Palm Pixi phone that I got it when the device was first released (over a year ago). That’s a long time for a cell phone, as new designs seem to come out on a 6-8 month cycle. Of course, the delay in providing new and different phones is understandable since the sale of Palm this summer to HP was a big distraction. Palm seemed busy improving the WebOS operating system (now close to releasing 2.0) but their handsets seemed to have suffered. Maybe HP has high hopes of using WebOS on a new tablet device and that took priority over the smartphones?

I’ve used a few different smartphone OSes and I have to say that the Palm WebOS is one of the best. The true multitasking and “card stacking” is a great feature, and if they are able to improve the performance and speed with the WebOS 2.0 version that’s even better. Hopefully, HP will put out some new and exciting phones within the next 6 months and we’ll see them appear on Sprint and other networks early next year.


Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Selling in US tomorrow

November 7, 2010

Well, tomorrow is the big day for the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7 to debut in the US. With all the great reviews, I bet the phones will sell out fast at the various AT&T and T-Mobile outlets, especially since they are already announcing possible shortages of the phones. I certainly would consider switching handsets if they were released on the Sprint network (since that is what I’m using currently). Time will tell if developers decide to write apps for the WP7 platform, and how long it will take for high-quality apps to appear on the Marketplace.

I hope the new WP7 devices really make a big impact, as the reviews I’ve read really look good. It’s a shame that one of the original “smartphone” developers, Palm, seems stuck in the sand with just four handsets released to date with the WebOS operating system. They have announce a new “WebOS 2.0” device coming out soon, but it just looks like a souped-up Palm Pre Plus with a flatten screen. HP/Palm needs to come out with much better handsets to really compete with Apple and Microsoft followed up with a big marketing blitz. Palm could have the best OS in the world, but very few will realize it if they don’t create new handsets, promote their OS, and give Microsoft, Apple, and Android a run for their money.


I love my Palm Pixi Smartphone!

November 23, 2009

For the last few years, I’ve been using my Motorola-Q Smartphone (running Windows Mobile 5) as my cell phone. When I first got it, I thought it was really cool that I could get emails “pushed” down to my phone automatically through the Microsoft Exchange Server system that my company was using. Along with emails, I could also view my calendar and get alerts on events and tasks.

As time went on, newer smartphones appeared on the market with GPS for positioning, better web browsers, and better apps. Blackberry phones were very popular, and the Apple iPhone raised the bar when it came to a productive user-interface. About 6 months ago Palm, Inc. came out with the Palm Pre running Palm’s WebOS operating system. Very much like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android interface, WebOS was the new Linux-based OS that would help propel Palm back into the modern Smarphone arena.

It was the WebOS that really interested me, as it made the Windows Mobile 5 OS on my Moto-Q phone seem prehistoric. Unfortunately, the first Palm phone to run WebOS  (Palm Pre) had a slider keyboard form-factor which I really didn’t like. The Pre was also somewhat thick (because of the slider keyboard) and I didn’t want to get something that was thicker than my current Moto-Q phone (since I normally keep my phone in my front pants pocket).

Then appeared the Palm Pixi, which was a very thin candy bar-form factor smartphone that ran the WebOS and had a fixed keyboard. It was similar to my Moto-Q, but thinner, slimmer, and lighter and also sported a touch screen. This was the phone that I was waiting for! Read the rest of this entry »