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Palm's webOS, the OS Built From the Web, Puts Users and Developers First

Posted by joshy on April 15, 2010 at 10:08 AM PDT

There's been a ton of talk lately about several mobile operating systems and their problems, such as language restrictions, fragmentation, and anti-competitive practices. It's never a good idea to talk bad about your competition, so I'll take this opportunity to simply say a few things about the webOS (the OS that powers Palm's Pre and Pixi phones) that you might not know.

As always, I am writing this as Josh the blogger. These are my opinions alone and do not reflect the opinions of Palm Inc.

  • webOS devices are part of the web, not tethered to a desktop. You install apps through the web. You your data is backed up to the web. OS updates come through the web. Your address book is a merged view of your contacts living in the web. You never have to sync to a desktop computer. I know some Pixi users who have never once plugged their phones into a computer, because their phone is already a part of the web.
  • The webOS treats it's users like grown ups: they can install any apps they want. What if the app duplicates a built in app? Fine. What if the app isn't in the on device catalog? Fine: you can install apps from the web or beta feeds without any restrictions and do the marketing on your own. What if the app hasn't been reviewed, came from my cool programmer friend, and might hose my device? Well, if you enter the developer code into your phone then you've accepted the risk and can install any app you want. There's a whole community of people making cool but unauthorized apps. They are called the Homebrew community, and Palm encourages them. You're an adult. You can make the decision of what to install on your phone.
  • The webOS lets you use any language you want to develop apps. While Palm doesn't provide tools for languages other than JavaScript, C, & C++, there are no restrictions against using any other language. Our new PDK gives you a clean POSIX layer with direct & standard access to input (SDL), the screen (OpenGL), and device services (API bridge). There's nothing stopping you from porting a C# compiler or a Lua interpreter. Developers are free to use whatever tools they wish. The results are what matter. Good apps are good apps.
  • The webOS doesn't have fragmentation. All webOS devices run the same OS, regardless of form factor. They are all updated over the air, for free, in all countries and carriers. This means that 99% of webOS devices have the current version of the OS within a few weeks. There is no fragmentation of the operating system across devices or form factors. This lets developers focus on making great apps, not waste time supporting 18 versions of the OS.
  • The webOS is built from the DNA of the web. Yes this includes using HTML, JavaScript and CSS as the primary application development layer, but it's more than that. I can just start typing to have my question answered by wikipedia. The address book contains your contacts that live on the web. If my wife changes her Facebook profile photo, my phone is automatically updated. I can write an app that links to other apps through Javascript calls. The web is about connections to the people and services you care about, not just HTML pages. So is the webOS.

At Palm we care greatly about the end customer experience. We are also developers, so we care greatly about the developer experience. And most importantly, we don't see the two at odds. Happy developers create great apps that create happy customers. It's a win, win. That's why we are doing everything we can to make happy developers. We don't always do everything perfectly, but when something is broken we do our best to fix it and be transparent. It's how the web works and it's how the webOS works.

So, as a developer, I hope you'll think about the benefits and freedoms of the webOS, and consider it for your next mobile application.


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Interesting webOS device, but

Interesting webOS device, but really a lot of things need to be fixed :( I'm shur that there will be Updates ;) Thank you for the post.

It has harmony installed

"Java" is on WebOS but it is not very visible, WebOS has harmony installed and all the services are coded using java.
The pity is that nobody came up so far with an easy way to use your java skills for a user faced application.

I love WebOS, specially because it's openness, IIRC, there isn't any other phone has something similar to the "patches " it is amazing that you are able to ssh to it and CHANGE THE UI of your phone and the better part is that Palms doesn't mind.

They need a bit better hardware and put the word out there because the UI is just amazing

One thing that I don't like? The inability to synch with you desktop. it is great that you don't need it, but you should have the option, for backup reasons and specially because it is easier to do your "heavy editing" on your desktop's keyboard.

You just lost one possible developer

I got a bit curious and went to read about the PDK.
So WebOS is Linux based, but currently there isn't a PDK version available for Linux.
Only 32-bit versions of MacOS X and Windows are supported. On Windows Vista/7 developers have to disable UAC to be able to use the PDK!
Sorry but the PDK just seems something rushed out the door, and I just lost my interest after knowing about the above issues.

Is still in beta

I agree that Linux is a MUST, but lets wait until it is final...

How about Java?

Hi Josh,

Any chance you might convince them to support Java as a development language? I'd love to try to get Pivot running on a mobile device.  ;-)



Seems like a marketing post

Sorry Josh but it seems like a marketing post. It's a forum and there's not even mention of Java in your post.

Netbeans plugin for WebOs

Josh, did you happen to use Netbeans to develop WebOs apps? If so, is there a plugin available.

Sounds to me like a despair

Sounds to me like a despair attempt to bring developers in. We all know the situation of WebOS and Palm Inc. Funny thing is you didn't show what is the WebOS market, as a developer what is my potential market? how about international market? GSM support? which countries? All these questions are quite important to developers as well. Good luck on that.

Could be

I don't thing they need much more work with the developers, most of them love it, they need more and better advertisement and put it in the hands of more people.
I don't think that any other device has the amount of attachment that WebOS devices have.
We. with less than 2 millions devices were able to "win" in an online vote against devices have have more than one order of magnitude more users.I think that says something about how happy we are with our devices

>as a developer what is my potential market? how about international market? GSM support? which countries?
Less than 2 million devices, growing slowly :-(
Presence in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Germany, UK, Ireland and by the end of April in France
GSM support since November last year and in a few months in USA as well


webOS is probably a good

webOS is probably a good mobile OS, but unfortunately Palm's for sale, not Apple. I loved my Palm IIIx back in the day, but now I can't live without my iPhone anymore. Good luck to you!

webOS treats it's users like

webOS treats it's users like grown ups: they can install any paid apps where ever on earth they are .. oh, wait