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Summary:

Just yesterday, I was on camera saying how much I’m looking forward to the Palm Pre. With my first-gen iPhone contract up in July, I’m sure to get a new phone this summer. There’s still some open questions around the Pre, such as battery life and […]

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Just yesterday, I was on camera saying how much I’m looking forward to the Palm Pre. With my first-gen iPhone contract up in July, I’m sure to get a new phone this summer. There’s still some open questions around the Pre, such as battery life and the cost to use the phone as a tethered modem for a notebook or netbook. The biggest question I have right now is the same one I had for Google’s Android device: How long before developers embrace it and deliver a vast array of software?

This morning, I read a Wired article about Palm’s recent efforts to energize developers. Teleconferences and “preDevCamps” are happening to support the effort, which is great. Then I saw something that I probably should have known already, but I obviously had missed it:

“Palm has not said when it will makes its Pre SDK widely available to developers, but a select few already have had access to it.”

TeleNav is one of those select few, so I’d expect their navigation software to be available at, or soon after, Pre’s launch. And Palm introduced software partners like Facebook and Fandango at their CES unveiling. But there’s already a good mobile web interface for what those partners already offer, so while I’m sure these apps will appeal to many, they’re not really showing off “newness.”

My worry here is that Palm will face the same challenge that Google has faced with Android: a six-month wait (or more) after launch for a solid library of compelling applications. If it’s going to be so easy to develop WebOS apps with JavaScript, HTML and CSS, what’s the holdup on the Mojo SDK? Short of WebOS simply not being ready for developers to poke and prod, I can’t think of another reason. The longer developers wait for the SDK release, the wider the potential time gap between a hardware launch and a large library of software.

I haven’t changed my leaning towards the Pre, however I’ll be watching to see how long it takes before developers can start creating software for it. I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on mobile phone software, but it would be nice to have the option and not wait six months for a library of choice. The good news in all of this? From what I’ve read so far, developers do seem jazzed by the Palm presentations. I’d be more concerned if they weren’t.

  1. I’ll be switching to Sprint from Verizon Wireless in June. That’s when my contract is up. I’m switching because I want the Palm Pre. It looks like a really great phone.

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  2. The SDK just isn’t ready. To build a tool chain like this, it’s going to take a lot of time. Palm pushed this thing out FAST, and while it looks like internally they’re doing a fantastic job, making the tools and documentation for anybody but the most technical of developers just takes too much time.

    It really seems like they made a decision that the device HAS to come first, and come out soon. I’m sure Sprint had something to do with that, since they’re continuing to hemorrhage subscribers, they needed a flashy, flagship device and Palm needed a network without other competing smart phones.

    I can’t wait till that SDK comes out though, I’m curious to see just how much access to the system we get.

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    1. Just FYI, the claim I made that the SDK didn’t seem ready came from an interview I read of somebody who was using it via The Boy Genius.

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  3. Kevin, it sounds as if you’re saying you wouldn’t buy the Pre unless a whole lot of 3rd party apps are available at launch. Surely that can’t be the case or else why did you ever buy a 1st gen. iPhone?

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    1. Oh, snap!

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    2. Jake, I understand why you’re asking the question, but let’s put some context around it. As you said, there weren’t 3rd party apps when I bought my first-gen iPhone. Now that there are, not having a wide array of apps available to me on a new phone would be more of a “downgrade” for me, given what I have available to me today. Back then, I didn’t use many apps, now I do. My needs and the landscape have changed since then, so my decision today could be very different than it was nearly two years ago. Again, I see your point, but “that was then… this is now”. ;)

      Regardless, I’m not saying I won’t buy the Pre if there aren’t many apps available for it at launch. It’s simply a part of my decision making process and I thought it was worth pointing out so that others might consider it in their purchase decision. If folks don’t care about this aspect, no worries. If they do, this gives them more info to think about.

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    3. Kevin, you didn’t use any apps on whatever device you had before your 1st Gen iPhone? I switched from a PalmOS device to the iPhone and I specifically did NOT switch until the apps I needed were available.

      I am pretty sure Palm has seeded some key developers (that they have had good experience with during the PalmOS days or who they recruited based on their iPhone apps) with early drops of the SDK. Publishing an SDK is not a trivial task. You need to be fairly certain that the APIs are stable and won’t need to change. You need to have good documentation or else your developers will run away or you’ll get bogged down with questions/support issues.

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    4. Oliver, I used some apps, but primarily my phone two years ago was used more for traditional phone purposes and reading eBooks. I carried a UMPC and 3G modem everywhere, so I relied more upon that platform for apps.

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  4. There is a simple answer/solution to you question.
    Don’t buy a Pre at launch and wait to see if development takes off.
    It’s really that simple, Period.

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    1. Dudeman, dude really!! Thursday, February 26, 2009

      So everybody waits to buy for awhile and none get sold???If none are sold do you really think anyone would be interested much in developing apps for it?This is like everyone tivo’ing their favorite TV show and wondering why it gets cancelled because the ratings were so bad.If they don’t come we won’t play!!

      Kevin you state as the times have changed your needs have changed.Isn’t it your wants have changed?You don’t need those apps anymore then you needed them when you WAITED for them on your Iphone. You have just grown to liking them and want them.

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  5. JavaScript, HTML and CSS are not enough. People are waiting for Java and that’s the real issue around the community in my opinion. Without that kind of SDK, pre will remain a mediocre development platform.

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  6. I “attended” the Palm webinar yesterday for Developers. Development was demoed on a text editor and plug-ins for IDEs like Eclipse was mentioned. I don’t think there is an SDK forthcoming per se, but more of just documentation and release of the Mojo JavaScript Framework.

    I agree with Kevin’s position. WebOS is probably not ready and Mojo itself is still in flux.

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  7. I’m a bit new to the whole developers thing for the Pre. People are saying Mojo SDK and Pre SDK, and how the “Pre SDK” is available to a limited amount of developers.

    I know that Mojo is supposed to be the SDK for web based progamming, but am I wrong to assume that the Pre SDK is different from Mojo? And that the Pre SDK will offer programming on the hardware level?

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  8. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the Palm Pre become dominant over the iPhone in six months. Most of you just figure this Palm is just going to be instantly great because it runs demos so nicely. You really believe that the OS is not going to have any teething problems at all. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. Palm should just take it’s time and work all the bugs out of it before releasing the SDK. Honestly, Palm can’t afford to make any mistakes with this Pre or they’re gonna be out of business.

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  9. Kevin and all – you are missing one big thing which I overlooked as well …

    If the Pre is going to support Flash then we have a platform through which you can already develop content for the Pre. Wouldn’t it mean that you can just use Flex today to create your next Flash .swf app for Pre?!

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    1. Tal,
      That would work if you wanted dog slow apps possibly with bugs.

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    2. I heard recently that gartner are putting adobe ahead of the pack for ria development. But you may be right. Just trying to hold to some optimism. thanks.

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  10. I’ve been waiting 6 months for this. They haven’t lost me yet. But all we have is a suggestion that it may be soon. The iPhone SDK is a different beast. No one would characterise it as easy. I’m about to release my first iPhone app. Thereafter there will be released in quick succession – this one took 4 weeks. I will develop for the Pre, but given there are only 100K out there It’s now low on my list. I wanted to be one of the first, but given development time of the first app is long, I want to invest my time wisely. If they had released it earlier I may have postponed the purchase of my macbook etc. They are shooting themselves in the foot, it’s only html, css and javascript. Anyway enough blathering back to work.

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