Palm Invites Developers To Join WebOS Programme

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Palm has opened its webOS developer programme to all developers, and has also announced new phones and operator support.

Palm has announced that its webOS developer programme is now open to all developers interested in participating. The company also announced new phones and new operator support.

At a press event at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on 7 January, Palm officials said any developer can now go to the Palm Developer Center (http://developer.palm.com), sign up, and start developing and distributing applications for webOS devices. Palm showcased its developer programme and tools at CES and announced a $1 million developer Hot Apps bonus programme for the Palm webOS developer community.

“We’re thrilled to open the doors of a programme that offers mobile developers unparalleled freedom and choice in how they distribute and market applications,” said Katie Mitic, senior vice president of product marketing at Palm, in a statement. “The combination of our highly accessible web-based platform, groundbreaking integration opportunities and open, flexible distribution programme makes Palm webOS the best place for developers to create the next generation of innovative mobile applications.”

To kick off the official opening of the Palm applications ecosystem, Palm is launching a $1 million (£625,000) Hot Apps bonus programme for webOS developers. The programme, which runs from 1 February through to 31 May, 2010, is open to developers worldwide and will award $1 million to the most successful applications distributed during this timeframe. The developers of the top free and paid applications each will earn a $100,000 bonus; in addition, 40 developers will receive $10,000 (20 each for free and paid), with 400 developers awarded $1,000 (200 each for free and paid). Awardees will be notified in June. Details are available at http://developer.palm.com.

The Palm developer programme is designed to promote a thriving environment for all developers to create, distribute, promote and monetise the delivery of applications to Palm customers. It extends the web orientation of Palm webOS, providing opportunities for developers to grow their businesses by leveraging the web as a promotional channel for applications.

Moreover, the company said the Palm developer programme is designed to help developers promote their work and ultimately drive application sales and downloads. Developers receive a 70/30 split (developer/Palm) of gross revenues generated through sales. The membership-based programme has a $99 (£62) annual fee, which will be waived for developers who opt to distribute open source Palm webOS apps on the web. The programme provides a sales transaction and fulfillment service for developers.

The Palm developer programme offers developers two ways to get their applications to market:

  • Distribution in the Palm App Catalog – A link to the Palm App Catalog is built in to every Palm webOS device. Applications distributed in the Palm App Catalog will be subject to review by Palm, and developers will pay a per-application fee of $50 (£31). Applications approved in this programme will have immediate distribution to the most targeted application promotional channel on webOS devices.
  • Distribution on the web – For developers who wish to promote their applications exclusively online, Palm will provide just the sales transaction and fulfillment service. Every app will receive a unique URL, allowing developers to freely promote their applications online and enabling customers to download and install the application directly from the cloud to their phone using Palm’s unique over-the-air process. This distribution option offers a fast self-certification process as well as the ability for developers to control the distribution and promotion of their applications using the online marketing vehicles they already have and creating new ones as they see fit.

In addition, a special Beta channel allows developers to easily expand their testing programme and iteratively improve their products.

Moreover, Palm officials said the company is opening up the database of webOS applications data, with feeds of app descriptions, ratings, stats, screen shots and more to app developers and the broader web community to leverage the web as a discovery channel. This open system will enable the creation of app directories, ranking mechanisms, communities and more around the rapidly growing base of webOS applications, Palm said. These feeds will include a unique application URL for each application that can be promoted through web channels for users to request over-the-air distribution of that application to their device, the company said.

“We’re leveraging the power of the web to give developers as much freedom as possible,” added Mitic, also in a statement. “The web is a large and efficient channel for connecting consumers to the content and applications they want most, so it only makes sense to leverage those tools and community to enhance discovery of Palm applications.”

In addition, since the announcement of the programme in October, Palm has provided details of two new developer tools that are designed to significantly lower the barriers to mobile application development. Palm’s press release on the developer programme describes these tools as:

  • The Palm webOS Plug-in Development Kit (PDK) extends the Palm webOS Software Development Kit (SDK) with a set of tools, documentation and APIs that let developers write plug-ins for their webOS applications. With the PDK, developers can seamlessly integrate C and C++ code into their webOS apps, enabling new functionality such as 3D games. At the CES event, Palm announced the availability of 3D games built by leading developers with early access to the PDK. A public beta version of the webOS PDK is scheduled to be available to all developers in March.
  • Project Ares, released as beta in December, is the first complete set of integrated mobile development tools hosted entirely in the browser. Featuring a drag-and-drop interface builder, a robust code editor, a visual debugger, and built-in source control integration, Ares dramatically lowers the barriers for web developers to jump into mobile development and makes building webOS apps even easier and faster than before. Ares aims to enable the next-generation mobile developer workflow, letting developers move quickly and seamlessly from editing in a browser to debugging on a device and selling applications in Palm’s App Catalog or on the web.

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Meanwhile, also at CES, US operator Verizon Wireless and Palm announced the 25 January availability of Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus, bringing the Palm webOS experience to the Verizon 3G network.

Palm Pre Plus has a large, vivid touch screen; high-performance processor; and slide-out keyboard. The Pre Plus keyboard makes for quick and easy typing, while the unique gesture area provides a sleek look and intuitive navigation, Palm said. The Pre Plus also comes with the Palm Touchstone Back Cover, making the phone compatible with the inductive Touchstone Charging Dock. Verizon Wireless Pre Plus customers will also get 16 GB of storage for applications and media.

The thin and lightweight Palm Pixi Plus adds Wi-Fi along with an optional splash of color, thanks to new Touchstone Back Covers available in pink, blue, green, orange and black for all Palm Pixi phones, said Jon Zilber, Palm’s online communications director, in a blog post.

“The companies also introduced Palm mobile hotspot, a Palm webOS app that turns your Palm Pre Plus or Palm Pixi Plus into a mobile Wi-Fi router,” Zilber said. “The app provides wireless broadband access for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices. Palm mobile hotspot will be available in the Palm App Catalog for Verizon Wireless customers.”

Zilber added that another operator will soon be bringing webOS phones to its customers: Palm and SFR announced the availability of Palm webOS phones in France in the second quarter of 2010.

“The Palm experience is all about helping our customers stay connected so they never miss a thing,” said Jon Rubinstein, Palm chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We’re constantly enriching this experience with new features and innovations. The Verizon Wireless launch of Pre Plus and Pixi Plus is the next phase in delivering this unique Palm experience to more people.”

“The Palm webOS family is a great addition to Verizon Wireless’ robust line-up of smartphones,” said John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, in a statement. “The outstanding capabilities and functionalities on both Pre Plus and Pixi Plus give customers a wealth of customisation options to help them manage their lives. Customers get the latest technology from Palm along with the nation’s largest and most reliable 3G network for an unsurpassed mobile experience.”

In another strategic move, Palm also announced at CES that several new 3D game titles are available for the webOS platform, including games from leading game developers EA Mobile, a division of Electronic Arts Inc.; Gameloft; Glu Mobile; and Laminar Research.