Palm Pre Is Still Behind the iPhone When It Comes to Apps

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Palm Pre is getting headlines and it's looking like a winner. But the biggest problem it faces is that it simply doesn't have enough applications available to make it a compelling alternative to the iPhone.

The iPhone is the leader in the smartphone space. It provides a compelling experience with the help of its outstanding software and functional touch-screen. It also extends its feature-set with the help of a variety of applications -- 50,000 at last count -- that range from productivity to gaming.

Realizing that, a variety of iPhone competitors followed suit. T-Mobile's G1, a Google Android-based device, sporting a touch-screen, has a Marketplace where users can download applications. Many of those apps (but certainly not all) were ported from the iPhone. RIM's BlackBerry App World is also a fine place to find applications for the company's BlackBerry Bold or BlackBerry Storm. Like the Android Marketplace, RIM's BlackBerry App World isn't as big as the Apple App Store, but it's growing. Microsoft is on its way to releasing an app store of its own for its Windows Mobile operating system. It's not available yet, but the company promises it will compete on the same level as Apple's store.
But there's one more company -- Palm -- that has yet to provide that added value to users. Although the company's Pre is being touted as one of the best iPhone competitors on the market, that company uses a platform called webOS to bring apps to the product. There's just one problem: developers that have been easily porting their applications from one platform to another can't do that with the Pre.
Although the Pre is a fine device, it's an anomaly in today's market. Unlike its competitors, which have thousands of applications available on their platforms, Palm's Pre has just 30 applications available in its App Catalog. And unfortunately, there's little chance that Palm will be bringing more apps to the device anytime soon.
Palm's SDK deployment has slowed. Last week, the company's Developer Community manager, Chuq Von Rospach, said that although Palm wants to bring the SDK to developers quickly so they can start developing for webOS, "the software and the developer services to support it just aren't ready yet." Palm expects the SDK to be available by the end of the summer.
Is that too late? Palm's launch wasn't an unbridled success. According to the company, it sold 50,000 Palm Pre devices during its first weekend of availability. Compare that to Apple's announcement that it sold more than 1 million iPhone 3G S units in its first weekend of availability and it quickly becomes clear that Palm has some work to do. But getting to work on that SDK is paramount.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...