Palm takes next steps on webOS, Pre smartphone

Palm has revealed new details about its developer plans for the webOS operating system, the heart of the upcoming Palm Pre smartphone.

The company has extended its "early access" program for the Mojo software development kit, making it accessible to more developers, but still stopping short of general availability. Palm also announced plans to deploy the first of a series of branded "cloud" services, in this case a subscribe/publish messaging service. Finally, it unveiled an emulation program from MotionApps, that will let the Palm Pre load and run hundreds of applications written for the legacy PalmOS platform.

The announcements were made Wednesday night by Michael Abbott, Palm senior vice president of application software and services, during a speech and demonstration at the Web 2.0 Expo, in San Francisco.

Among other things, Abbott stressed that webOS applications run natively on the Palm Pre, so they"re available to users even without a network connection. But those applications are built with widely-used Web technologies such as HMTL, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets. The new platform, which replaces the declining PalmOS, is critical to Palm"s future.

Since shortly after the sleek, multi-touch Pre smartphone was unveiled in January, the Mojo SDK has been available only to a select group of software application partners. Starting now, developers can apply for access to the toolkit at Not all applicants will be accepted at this point. Mojo will be generally released "later this year," according to Palm.

The smartphone, initially available only on the Sprint network, is due out by the end of June at the latest. You can check out a slideshow that compares Palm Pre with Apple iPhone, based on their specifications. 

The new cloud service, dubbed Mojo Messaging Service (MMS), undoubtedly will find fast and broad adoption among webOS developers. According to a Palm statement, the service will enable the automated replication of new or changed data and content to users and applications.

MMS uses a subscribe/publish model: users and applications "sign up" for data or content. When changes are published on the cloud servers, they become available automatically via notification to the subscribers. MMS relies on the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), a set of open, standards-based technologies that can be used in such applications as instant messaging, presence, multi-user chat, content syndication, and general routing of XML data. XMPP was originally developed in the Jabber open-source project as an alternative to proprietary messaging services.

The new emulator, dubbed "Classic," from San Francisco-based MotionApps, will let existing Palm users move many of the 30,000 or so legacy PalmOS applications to the Pre. The vendor"s Web site has little in the way of detail, but claims, "Compared to Treo 700p your PalmOS apps will run approximately twice as fast on Classic."

There is a drawback at least initially: the PalmOS applications will not be able to exploit core elements and features of the new webOS. In a statement, Palm says it is "working with partners to ensure that popular PalmOS applications...are optimized to take advantage of everything [webOS] has to offer." But it gave no details about what that actually means or how or when it will be possible.

This story, "Palm takes next steps on webOS, Pre smartphone" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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