Wednesday 4 November 2009

O2 Litmus: Palm Pre Mobile Web Developer Event

Tonight was a really impressive event organised by O2 Litmus. The two guys from Palm did a very good job presenting WebOS and Palm’s plans for the future. The food and drink was excellent. And they even gave us a Palm Pre each to take home! Certainly makes me want to at least try out making an app.

As usual, here’s my notes for the evening in a vaguely coherent manner…

  • webkit appearing all over the place on mobile
  • as well as opera (there were a couple of people from Opera at the event)
  • HTML 5 is providing standardisation for web applications in the same way that HTML provided standardisation for web documents
  • web applications are escaping the browser:
  • why not flash, javafx or silverlight?
  • because:
  • “When you improve things by an order of magnitude, you haven't made something better — you've made something new” — Stephen Levy
  • Palm Pre uses V8 javascript engine, just like Chrome
  • WebWorkers provide background threads
    • came from Gears worker pool
    • invented to stop database access causing hangs
  • Chrome uses WebWorkers for extensions
  • Firefox hasn’t implemented SQLite, but may go for a JSON-based database, like CouchDB
  • CSS Transforms
  • “it’s not javascript people don’t like, it’s dealing with cross-browser issues”
    • anyone mention IE…?
  • “it’s not just going to be developing apps for Palm — it’s making things for the web”

some detail

  • Mojo Framework is open-source
  • Mojo uses prototype.js at the moment, but will be made nicer to use other alternatives later
  • dashboard items and popups are just DOM items
  • want to integrate apps into system — background apps


  • web browser provides normal web sandbox
  • applications get access to native services
  • certain APIs still need permissions granted
    • e.g. location
    • can get app to ask when API is used
  • would like to push local APIs to browser windows
  • apps are packaged and signed
    • working with developers to encrypt apps in different ways
    • would anticipate that developers would be able to opt-in to encrypt their app
    • protect against people uploading a copy of an app as their own
    • balanced against the benefit of view source on the web

app store

  • Palm would like a “web app store” to emerge
  • Palm doesn’t feel that it’s the right company to make this move
  • creating a Palm catalogue & developer program for mid-December
    • charging $50 for each app to be in the catalogue — as a spam filter
    • money goes to funding developing programme & catalogue service
    • interested in finding other “friction points”
  • can get an immediate acceptance into the web distribution of the Palm app catalogue
    • submit and get a URL straight away
    • can email/tweet other people
    • no review process
  • opening up the backend too — feeds of all the apps and charts
  • would like digg-style rating
  • a developer can choose to make an app available for specific markets
  • also aiming to provide metrics for developers, so they can see how users are choosing or not choosing their apps
  • payment:
    • right now they have PayPal
    • would like to support several options
    • want to decrease the friction

BONDI & others

  • palm works with them
  • including W3C widgets & geo
  • Palm way will be there originally, but will be switched out when
  • order depending on developer requests
  • native-accelerated CSS transforms are higher at the moment
  • “Palm pays us, but they didn’t pay us enough to sell out”

supporting open source

  • waiving cost for anyone working open source
  • $99 for developer


  • O2 Litmus will be recruiting Palm Pre users for testing availability
  • DeviceAnywhere will feature Palm Pre in O2 VDL


  • they already use Jira and want to open it something to the public soon
  • homebrew community will patch things before Palm do it themselves
  • there are differing viewpoints internally…

personal usage

  • like multi-tasking
  • don’t like UI latency
    • hardware is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 3GS
    • don’t have access to hardware GPU — so CSS Transforms is really important
    • will happen with a over-the-air software upgrade

multiple devices

  • Palm Pixi seems a lot nicer
  • different screen size (80 pixels shorter)
  • should design liquid layouts…
  • the future is devices in all kinds of form factors


  • there are tools for Flash — what about tools for WebGL, etc?
  • mozilla is making tools
  • e.g. Atlas from 280North
  • this week there may be something new released…
  • should flash be a native platform for apps on Palm Pre?
    • nearly supported for web pages — Adobe has shown something working already


Anonymous said...

have you read this? Sounds very much like it won't leap-frog the iPhone to me

I still hate the fact that Palm cocked it up so badly; they are the PDA equivalent of Silicon Graphics: proprietary but good hardware (the docks), their own mildly odd but good OS, then a disastrous switch to Microsoft underpinnings...

Palm screwed up most of all by changing the dock design too often; way to reward your most loyal customers, guys - make all the old accessories obsolete so people don't care about changing *platforms*.

Still, all this can only help to raise other manufacturers' aspirations. About time they pulled their sodding fingers out.

Adam Cohen-Rose said...

@Anonymous: I'm not sure it will leapfrog the iPhone either, but I'm reasonably impressed with the direction they're taking.

The speed is the main killer at the moment -- and apparently Palm are waiting to incorporate GPU native CSS Transforms into their WebKit build. Hopefully this should address a lot of issues across the board, but I'm not sure if it will address camera lag...

Let's see how it goes.