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Does Palm’s developer programme lack substance?

There was a time, about five years ago to be exact, when Palm held developer press briefings in London and furrowed a relatively deep channel of respect as one of the vanguards of the mobile app revolution. They would talk about developer challenges for ‘squeezing into’ the mobile space and really get down to the guts of demonstrating how fast simple forms-based apps could be produced.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

There was a time, about five years ago to be exact, when Palm held developer press briefings in London and furrowed a relatively deep channel of respect as one of the vanguards of the mobile app revolution. They would talk about developer challenges for ‘squeezing into’ the mobile space and really get down to the guts of demonstrating how fast simple forms-based apps could be produced.

Without worrying too much about little things like the iPhone, Palm has of course rolled with the good and bad over this last half decade and now perhaps keeps a little quieter overall.

But as application-aware as I would like to claim that I am, I have not installed much on my ageing Treo as it is my second unit to suffer from horrendous screen degradation and pixel-sprawl (as I like to call it). Or my third if you count (or can remember) the Palm Tungsten.

Interesting then to see recent ZDNet.co.uk news detailing the company’s approach to its WebOS platform and the fact it will drop programme fees for open-source developers. Anytime you hear a major manufacturer say they are offering an, “unparalleled level of transparency,” are you not slightly suspicious?

Is this not Palm trying to piggyback on existing web-based application delivery channels to aid the general proliferation of its user base? Well that’s good business sense, so what’s wrong with that I suppose?

But it’s a win-win for Palm with minimal investment isn’t it? Just what are they giving back? The company’s developer programme framework will provide, “feedback on early stages of development,” for fledgling projects. Great, so what? By and large, all we hear from Palm is money-focused messages – there’s no, “hey, use our lab resources and take a look at some of the following tutorials,” is there? If there is, I’ve missed it so sorry.

Instead, Palm concentrates on telling us about “monetising the delivery of valuable applications,” to Palm customers and the, “70/30 split (developer/Palm) split of gross revenues,” that developers get from application sales.

I see one line that makes note of the programme including crash logs and information on application usage. Other than that, we’re straight back into info on how to be considered for the illustrious Palm App Catalogue.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Palm – after all, why would I have stuck with such a badly malfunctioning machine for so long? I think the build quality is actually really solid and I like the GUI. I also love Astraware’s superb Palm games and some of the retro 80s freeware stuff.

But this week’s news has too commercially tinged for my liking. Palm clearly has the technical guts under the bonnet to help developers make their apps zing, so why do they focus so heavily on commercialisation and distribution?

Money talks and BS walks I guess.

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