Palm's revised webOS developer program looks more open than Google
Published: 8 October, 2009
Rather overshadowed by Android and Windows Mobile announcements, Palm added the first paid-for applications to its store, and unveiled a webOS developer program that makes Google's look tightly closed by comparison.
Of course, a single-vendor software platform has to go that extra mile to attract developer support from the potentially giant user bases of Symbian and Android, and Palm's efforts are respectable - though will go to waste if the devices on which webOS runs, the Pre and Pixie, do not gain major acceptance.
Although the developer program does not officially open up until December, Palm has already announced key terms. Software creators will be able to distribute applications on the web and will only have to submit to a review process if they want their software to be made available through the App Catalog, said the vendor, stealing some of the open web high ground from Google.
However, good intentions can be wrecked by unfriendly processes and most of the major mobile software environments have managed to antagonize their own development communities. Prominent developer Jamie Zawinski described the pilot version of the App Catalog submission process as a "Kafka-esque nightmare" on his blog, according to CNet, and complained that it would be hard for open source programmers to take part, since webOS developers have to pay a $99 annual fee. Such criticisms have prompted Palm to do its U-turn, allowing webOS apps to be distributed on the internet without having to use the App Catalog, so escaping the review process and submitting software via an automated system.
This shows Palm adopting a two-tiered approach that seems to marry better than Google's or Apple's with the schizophrenic world of the mobile web - open browser-based access or downloadable apps that are optimized for the network and device? The App Catalog offers the latter approach, with a more direct distribution channel that is tightly integrated with the hardware. In the Catalog, developers will receive 70% of the revenue generated but have to pay $50 for each application that they submit. They also still have to pay $99 per year to participate in the webOS developer program, regardless of how they distribute their software. However, Palm said it would waive this fee for open source apps - "in appreciation of what the open source movement has contributed to the web".
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