Five Developers Who Think the Palm Pre is a Winner

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Its easy operating system, WebOS, may just allow the Pre to tap web developers for cool apps to compete with the iPhone.

When Ian McFarland, of Pivotal Labs, first started talking to Palm about the Pre last November he says; “We realised it was not just another me-too platform.”

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McFarland, a principal and vice president of technology at Pivotal, which is a consultancy specialising in web and mobile development, said he grudgingly waited in line to get a glimpse of the Pre at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, but came out really impressed. Further details were released in April.

“It has a first-class user experience, and one thing that stood out for us was the ease of development for the platform because it’s based on Web technology; HTML, CSS and JavaScript,” McFarland said of the Pre.

Indeed, the Palm Pre’s operating system (webOS) and Mojo Software Development Kit (SDK) enable developers to use familiar web technologies to create applications, without having to learn different languages or technologies.

“That made it easy to build applications quickly and not have them feel like second-class applications,” McFarland said, noting that up to now, many of the applications built with web technology weren’t as rich as those built with native or custom technology.

Moreover; “All the little annoyances I have with my iPhone were made plain,” McFarland said. “I really didn’t even know I had these ‘annoyances,’ until I started playing around with the Pre. But it showed me that you are able to really multi-task on a mobile phone. Going from email to do something else is a hassle on other devices, but with the Pre you can have different applications open with multiple views. And notifications are handled elegantly. Meanwhile, BlackBerry, the iPhone and all the others have pain points.”

Real multi-tasking

“It’s got a real multitasking OS (operating system); Android gets closest, but it doesn’t have the ease of use the Pre does.”

Added McFarland, “Any time you can look at an iPhone and the Pre device and say this is much better, that’s disruptive. It’s a beautiful little device,” he said of the Pre.

Not only does it provide a good user experience, it also makes for a good developer experience, said McFarland.

“It has nice developer tools, and while it’s hard to do test-driven development (TDD) on the iPhone and BlackBerry, we like to do TDD and we like how we can do TDD on the Pre. And the fact that it’s JavaScript and you’re dealing with a scripting-oriented language means you don’t have to deal with long compile times. It opens up development to a lot more developers. It’s very declarative and has a powerful toolset,” McFarland said.

He noted that Pivotal Labs will be responsible for several applications that will be available when Palm makes the Pre generally available to the public, which could be as soon as May. McFarland said Pivotal is creating a Pre application of its own and is working on four other applications under contract with third-party organisations that will ship them under their own brands. Pivotal has 10 software developers dedicated to Pre application development with two additional developers on call to pitch in when needed.

Meanwhile, McFarland said he believes the Pre can become the next great business-class device. “I think it’s a great fit for that space,” he said. “Palm already has some penetration in that area. And the Pre delivers an easy tool set to develop with. If you’re developing for a company and you’re taking web services back ends and tying them to AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and X M L) front ends, you can take exactly the same skill set and build applications for this platform. It’s going to be a really good fit for custom apps for the company, and for web app developers in particular to do custom apps.”

Palm has said the Pre is the first in a series of devices that will use the webOS. However, the company has not said, as has Google with Android, that the operating system will eventually run on netbooks. Yet, McFarland said; “there’s nothing that would preclude it from doing that, it should be fully portable.”

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