Palm’s webOS: if you can build a website, you’ve got an app

Palm is making some big claims surrounding a new developer programme designed to champion the use of it its webOS operating system.The company says that apps on webOS are built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so, in the most basic terms, if you've built a website, you can build a webOS app.

Palm is making some big claims surrounding a new developer programme designed to champion the use of it its webOS operating system.

The company says that apps on webOS are built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so, in the most basic terms, if you've built a website, you can build a webOS app. Palm also offers a developers a 70/30 split of revenue from any apps sold from its online catalog, which I suppose compares quite nicely with some of the other programmes out there.

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Does it work then? Is it over-hyped marketing spin? I spoke with Palm’s Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith to try and get some insight, so here’s the gospel according to Palm’s developer outreach glitterati:

The web will be the route for ALL application usage (or enough to make it a viable channel for this proposition to hold water) so widening the doorway for online apps and web services to migrate to devices is a good thing.

NB: Almaer & Galbraith actually said, “We’re glad that Palm did not just produce another proprietary OS or development framework. We align to the openness of the Internet and open web standards in general.”

Palm will continue to monitor the quality and nature of the content being presented to its app catalog. But it will not stand in the way of innovation even if you are trying to reinvent the wheel. I asked if they would advise against developing something as basic as a calculator app (the devices ship with one anyway of course) and Palms says ‘bring it on’, you might just develop something new and compelling.

Palm is starting to move towards hosting its own developer events, although the company appears to still be keeping close quarters with operators for this kind of thing. Palm Developer World Las Vegas 2010 is not quite ready yet (that's a joke OK?) and the best route for developer tuition and learning continues to be the website linked at the start of this blog.

There’s also a plug-in development kit waiting in the wings (soon to launch apparently) with a set of tools and APIs to make it easy for developers to integrate C and C++ code into their webOS applications – good for “immersive” 3D game functionality so they say.

“We are excited to offer several on-ramps for developers to reach Palm customers and monetise their applications. If you are a web developer you can now employ and direct your skills for rich mobile apps. If you have C/C++ code laying around, or just prefer working in that environment, the PDK has something to offer you – and Flash developers also have a route on our platform. The worlds of ‘mobile’ and the web have converged,” said Galbraith.

Palm has also just unleashed a "Hot Apps" program that infuses a million dollars into the app ecosystem.

What I think all this points to is a new proposition for previous ‘desktop web use only’ focused web designers. A website is an application then and further – a website is a mobile application. Personally I think we need to draw a few caveats and provisos here, we’re not quite there are we? While Palm also mentioned provisioning for offline app functionality, until we reach the next tier of broadband penetration, device proliferation and user adoption, some of this may be clever positioning for a technology ‘just about to happen’. How long do we have to wait? Ah, now if I knew that!