Palm is pushing the envelope of mobile application development with its focus on freedom and openness.
First, the company is promoting the development of free applications for its Palm Pre smartphone. Palm also is making it free for developers to join the Palm Developer Program, which would typically require a $99 fee. And with its new co-directors of developer relations, Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith, Palm is emphasizing the importance of the Web as the ultimate development platform and open standards-based, open-source technology as the means for developing mobile applications.
The focus on freedom and openness started with Palm's decision to create a Web operating system, webOS, rather than to use proprietary or nonstandard technology that could hamper interoperability or lead to lock-in. So the direction comes from Palm, but it also comes largely from the recently hired Galbraith and Almaer, who have lived and breathed Web technology for years. The team started Ajaxian.com to promote the use of Web technology, and then they teamed up to start the Mozilla Development Tools Lab to take their vision of open Web technology even further.
Now at Palm they get to apply that vision to the mobile space. Palm will launch its Palm webOS Developer Program in December.
"Almost every line of code I have written for the last four years or so has been open source," Almaer said. "The Web itself stands on the shoulders of open source [Mozilla, WebKit, Apache, Dojo, jQuery, etc.], and it only felt right that we should have a program for open-source developers and projects."
And if a developer's webOS application is released under open source, the $99 program fee is waived.
"Our program will be unlike anything currently available, and has been established to promote a thriving community by giving developers direct involvement in their own success," said Katie Mitic, senior vice president of product marketing at Palm. "Whether you're looking for immediate distribution or just feedback on early stages of development, this program is built to scale to your needs and finally put you in control of investing in and promoting your business."
Indeed, according to the Palm Application Distribution Program, developers can:
""Promote your free or paid applications on the Web for distribution to webOS devices. Apps require self-certification according to Palm's guidelines but are available to promote freely in any online channel with a unique URL without Palm application review. You can also provide access to other relevant content about your app, including descriptions and reviews. Applications will be distributed to any webOS device using our over-the-air service.""
For his part, Almaer said he is "personally really excited" about Palm's focus on the Web.
"This is what drew me to Palm," he said. "Not only is that focus seen in the core webOS platform, but also in the business side of distributing apps. When a developer signs up for our developer program, they get access to the Web distribution model. You send us your application, and you quickly get a URL sent back to you. With that URL, you can do whatever you want to merchandise your application. Blog about it, Tweet it, get it on Digg, and we hope soon ... get it on third-party sites that do a great job merchandising your application. The key here is that we do not review the application at all in this model. We strongly believe in trusting people first and having solutions in place for when that trust isn't rewarded."