Mojo SDK 1.1

With Palm's WebOS and development tools, Web programming ascends to the throne and powers the app layer, but Palm's platform is clearly a work in progress

Palm Mojo SDK 1.1
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Pros

  • Web-based paradigm is well understood by many developers, model-view-controller structure is widely embraced, open architecture for the tools encourages integration with Eclipse and other environments

Cons

  • Rough edges everywhere in the documentation and the functionality, game programmers can't get at OpenGL or the lowest layers easily.

Bottom Line

Palm Mojo SDK 1.1 feels unfinished, but has enormous potential. Palm's new webOS places classic JavaScript, HTML, and CSS in the driver's seat for the apps for the Palm Pre. Borrowing the tools from browsers makes it easy for talented JavaScript programmers (but not Web designers) and opens the possibility for many ideas from the Web to flow smoothly to Palm Pre users.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    Free (AUD)

I think there will also be some rapid integration with the various widget platforms out there. It would be relatively simple for Palm to create a browser-based IDE that lets people create and test rudimentary apps in their browser. A number of widgets like Google Gadgets come from just these sorts of IDEs.

Just the beginning

The JavaScript is just the beginning. Developers are actively digging into the Linux foundations of the Pre and finding they can build tools that work with the raw guts of the machine. Some are talking about writing Java services underneath.

I asked Palm a number of questions about distribution, its version of the App Store, and other issues, but I got only vague answers that pointed me toward the Web site. Maybe the company has a plan. Maybe it doesn't. But the programmers aren't waiting around to say, "Mother may I?" Palm users are already distributing open source versions of their code, and unlike with the iPhone, everyone is perfectly free to install any Pre apps they'd like to run.

Web sites such as PalmOpenSource.com and PreCentral.net are cataloging dozens of apps that come complete with the source code. This is fertile ground for developers and an active community. Days after Apple nuked the Google Voice app, some Palm coders posted a version for the Pre. I found myself browsing through a number of others' apps and learning much more than I could from the Mojo documentation.

These home-brew apps are heartening. I know people are doing similar things with the iPhone -- such as selling the source to people who must install it themselves -- but the entire scene emerging around Palm has a much more organic and creative vibe. It's not getting hung up on parsing and reparsing the App Store rules. Maybe Palm will tighten down the screws in the future. But for now it's a thrill to swap code and play with the technology.

The current version of the Mojo SDK is merely the start of access to a very fertile platform. The Web tools are so well known and well understood that it's hard to understand why more manufacturers haven't tried Palm's tack before.

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