Why Some Developers Think the Palm Pre Could Upstage the iPhone - Page 3

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Benjamin agreed with McFarland on the potential uptake on the Pre, for both consumers and enterprises. "It has a great feel," he said. "It's a lot smaller than the iPhone, and it fits in your palm comfortably. It has keys, which i like. And the screen looks great and the integrations are very nice."

When asked why his company is developing applications for the Palm Pre, Evan Conway, executive vice president of marketing at Handmark, said, "Handmark has a history of developing applications on new pre-production platforms. There is a reason why these platforms are called 'pre-production'-they are often unstable and the specifications [are] still changing. That is the frustrating part. The exciting part is being in early on the first phone to challenge the iPhone in terms of top-to-bottom inside-and-out innovation."

Moreover, Conway cited some of the challenges of developing for a new platform like WebOS and the Pre. "There are inherent challenges when you are developing on a pre-production platform-you don't have a wealth of tried-and-true expertise to consult, for one," he said. "But in many ways, it is exactly those constraints that make the end result all the more fulfilling. Certainly, there are times that we wished we could drop down into Java or C#, but we also built a great looking application with considerably less effort than it would take on many other platforms."

Handmark is a provider of entertainment, information and productivity applications for mobile phones. The first application the company will be providing for the Palm Pre will be Express Stocks. "The name should speak for itself," Conway said. "Stocks-fast and easy." Handmark provides applications for Apple iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian S60, BREW, BlackBerry, Java and Palm OS.

Todd Williams, vice president of technology and co-founder of Genuitec, which has been eyeing the Pre and its developer platform, said, "The Pre is the only phone that fully embraces the belief system that mobile Web applications are the way that enterprise mobile content will be delivered going forward. And the mobile Web is the only programming model for the Pre. WebOS is basically a WebKit-based browser that has been expanded into a complete operating system. Thus, the 'native' programming model for the Pre is HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript. There is no other model. Mojo is a JavaScript framework that provides easy integration and access with all 'on phone' content [contacts, calendar, etc.] so applications as rich as any phone's native applications can be built with modern Web technologies."

Williams noted that he believes developing for the Pre will present fewer challenges to developers than developing for other mobile platforms because there are "no funky subsets of Java to use [Java ME or Android's Java SE minus random stuff] or native languages [Objective-C and XCode for iPhone or C++ for Symbian]. What millions of developers need to know, they already know: HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript. All standardized and ready to go."

John Jackson, vice president of research at CCS Insight, agrees with Williams.

Asked why develop for the Pre, Johnson said:

""The short answer is WebOS, which should be development-friendly to a universe of Web developers. This contrasts with competitive environments that tend to require a higher degree of technical proficiency for developers, and may have more proprietary developer tool sets."I think you'll see the Pre attract lots of innovation just on the basis of its super-geeky cool architecture. The Pre is a from-the-ground-up build of a Web environment on a mobile phone, and in this way, it's absolutely cutting edge. So, as Palm has said, anyone familiar with CSS, HTML and X M L-and that's a lot of people-should find development intuitive.""

Yet, when it comes to challenges, Johnson said he sees a different set of challenges for Palm. "The challenge is to hold developers' interest," he said. "Apple does this magnificently by wrapping the platform in a commercial juggernaut that gives developers a clear path to revenue and massive transaction volume assurance. Nobody else comes close. So for Palm and all other aspiring competitors, cool and cutting edge only get you so far. You need to create revenue for both developers and the channel-in this case, Sprint. That's a function of unit volumes and transaction volumes [application usage]."

As for his expectations for the immediate success of the Pre, Johnson told eWEEK:

""I think its sales profile at Sprint will resemble that of the G1 at T-Mobile. They'll capture a good portion of whatever high end user base remains at Sprint as well as some of the technoratti. But it's unlikely the device will attract significant high-value defectors from other carriers as the iPhone has done for AT&T. Furthermore, Palm/Sprint will be coming to market on the eve of the next iPhone launch, which we expect in June. So there are significant positioning and channel challenges. These could be offset or mitigated with a 3G variant of the Pre launched in other markets such as Europe." "