Palm Pre, Chrome OS – The Most Open Platforms using Web Applications

Palm is the most developer friendly mobile environment I have ever seen. Previously we mentioned Palm says, Feel Free to Jailbreak Palm Pre. That was the best example of why this is something different from what we have seen in the past. What’s more? Palm Pre MOJO SDK is very powerful and yet welcoming.

After all the reviews and opinions, I fell, The Pre isn’t a bad phone, but it’s simply not worth the $200 to $250 premium over the BlackBerry Curve, the T-Mobile G1, and the iPhone 3G.

One  close friends grabbed a Pre on June 30th, but it wasn’t until July 16 that I figured out where Pre, and Palm’s WebOS platform, actually fit in the market for professional mobile devices. On July 16, Palm released the SDK for WebOS, a set of tools and documentation that Palm had, inexplicably, withheld.

– Why, I wondered, did Palm want to keep the SDK out of power users’ and developers hands when the WebOS platform was all about the ease with which new applications could be created in JavaScript?

– Isn’t this something similar to what Google is thinking of in Chrome OS?
Is there a Mojo?
By theory, part of WebOS’s appeal is that a Pre user can edit script, HTML, and style sheet files to adapt the device to their liking, and the Web-based approach reached all the way up to the top level of the GUI.

If you look carefully, the idea is same as what Google had be touting about in Chrome OS.

The applications are written in web based languages, and they run inside your OS via browser like engine.

There had been alot of arguments who literally consider the idea of web languages to design applications to be flawed.

Wait a moment, think about it. Your web-based applications will give you certain features which you never imagined you can get –  Portable, Light-Weight & more Open Apps. I liked this idea, not just for individuals, but for broad corporate or organizational deployments of devices. I was OK with the Pre’s consumery feel, knowing it wouldn’t take much effort to clear out the gimmicks that cast a cheap pallor on the phone and make a professional user’s experience uneven.

Palm shipped Pre with a stable of 500 handpicked WebOS developers working under NDA, and Palm expanded the secret developer program twice, and yet, at the six-week mark, Pre’s on-phone App Catalog has not grown beyond 30 apps. Why weren’t these developers, working in easy JavaScript, cranking out all kinds of useful apps?

On the other hand, for other platforms, Web applications are easy to develop. I’m not talking about the handwritten or frameworks like DOJO, what I want you to consider is Toolkits like GWT (Google Web Toolkit). If you have no idea about it’s power, have a look at Google’s upcoming WAVE, which will transform the way you knew about Emails, IM, Social Networking, collaboration.

Going back to the mobile-WebOs platform, Palm’s proprietary WebOS JavaScript SDK, with standards-tracked HTML 5 as it’s being implemented across mobile and desktop browsers. I think that HTML 5, especially as implemented in Apple’s open source WebKit engine, on which WebOS is based, is now credible as a runtime for stand-alone applications. I need to take a hard look at Mojo to see whether and to what extent Palm reinvented the JavaScript application foundation that’s built into post-Safari 3.0 builds of WebKit.

Limitations and Target Market

I hear the silly arguments all the time, web based applications can never be as Graphic-Rich and powerful as Native-Desktop apps. I know that. It’s never a war between Desktop and web-based applications. IT’s about getting a new market, that we don’t have today. A new scope that will encourage a “Normal user” to use the applications more openly and freely with higher portability leveraging the Cloud-computing.

What does a normal user/business user need?

Email, IM, Docs, spreadsheets, Multimedia: HD Video, audio, Web tools, normal-graphics-games.

All that is possible via WebOS like Chrome OS. If you havent seen the Graphics magic in AJAX applications, have a look at ChromeExperiments. (works good only in Chrome). Future could be something like Nvidia TEGRA netbooks running Chrome OS. you ever thought about that? A low powered though highly capable Netbook running a Open Web OS, making battery life no longer an issue.

Open the World – Open The Gates
The Mojo SDK is all about creating, installing, and debugging locally hosted Web apps. But an unexpected part of the SDK kicks Pre into Developer Mode, which opens Pre’s Linux to remote login. Once in the Pre’s command shell, you discover how robust and open the Linux OS at WebOS’ base really is. I think that once Pre developers get into the SDK, they will fall prey to the allure of the command line, shell script, and C. There isn’t another mainstream mobile phone that is as effectively rooted at the factory.

On the Desktop side, GWT is capable of producing portable apps (via upcoming HTML 5 standard) to leverage browser based applications to run on native desktops. In a normal GWT project you write all the UI and logic in pure POJO Java, without worrying about the compatibility of browsers that you are often concerned about when writing with other frameworks.

But why Am I talking about GWT alone? why not other Toolkits? DOJO isn’t bad either

I never said other toolkits are bad. Others that exist today are fairly immature as compared to where GWT stands today. The SECRET is: GWT would be the base for applications developed for Chrome OS. Today Google just wants to experiment and commercial application (Google wave) and tomorrow there will be more.

Talkin about Pre – Competitors will probably be all over Palm’s (current) policy to permit Pre users relatively easy privileged access to the phone’s Linux. I think Palm handled it well; the Pre is invulnerable to remote access unless its owner follows a somewhat tedious process to activate Developer Mode, and Palm made locking the phone back down a one-touch operation.

The Future

Pre as a smartphone,  is the right price for an open mobile platform. I understand now why Palm was reluctant to let the SDK go public, but Palm’s little secret turned out to define Pre’s niche in the market. similarly google’s GWT was once looked with suspicion of being a java based UI development. And today, Wave’s demos has made it go beyond a normal user’s expectations.

I look forward to a more Open World where MOST of the basic applications we see Today would run Openly, proudly on the Web. The Future, is Open, portable and more Green-Tech.

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