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Palm’s webOS

February 19, 2009

Palm has posted the first chapter of Mitch Allen’s (Palm’s CTO) webOS book. I have to say, the more I hear about Palm’s new OS the more impressed I am. While obviously it’s hard to say anything concrete until Palm officially released the Pre, I like what I’ve seen and read so far.

I think Apple did a lot of things right with the iPhone OS, but the platform does currently have a number of limitations (most due to specific choices by Apple rather than implementation of the platform itself). Android overcomes a number of those limitations and has a more developer model, but it’s just not as elegant as the iPhone OS (Google has some great developers, but they need to hire some great designers as well).  Palm’s webOS looks like it may offer some of the best of both worlds: a more open and flexible platform combined with really good design.

Palm’s choice of the web application development model (HTML+CSS+Javascript) also means that they can leverage existing developer tools. Although the iPhone platform is restrictive, Apple put together some great development tools; the combination of XCode + Interface Builder is really nice. Android’s tools are pretty limited.  Yes, there’s an Eclipse plugin, but your alternative to building your interfaces in code is to specify them in XML.  Yeah, that’s so much easier to do. Palm hasn’t widely released it’s SDK yet, but there are a bunch of tools for building web apps that they’ll hopefully be able to leverage.  That probably puts them somewhere between Apple and Google for developer tooling, but closer to the former than the latter.

The biggest problem with webOS is that it’s not clear whether Palm will survive. But based on what I’ve seen, I hope they do.  Right now I think that webOS has a better chance of providing elegant user experiences than Android (and will free you from giving Google all your data to boot).  Short term I think Apple still has them beat, but if Apple doesn’t loosen their restrictions on developers moving forward I could see Palm giving them a run for their money.

If it survives as a company.

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