Where Is Palm’s App Dev Kit?

Palm Pre WebOS SDK.I like the Palm Pre. I really do. I’m starting to wonder, though, if Palm does.

For all the excitement surrounding their best phone release in years, Palm seems to be doing their damnedest to let the Pre slip into obscurity. Perhaps the best feature of the new Pre is its operating system, named webOS because it comes built on web technologies that supposedly make developing on the platform a breeze. The platform also supports multi-tasking, a feature missing from the Pre’s ‘roid-induced cousin, the iPhone Unfortunately, Palm has yet to release the webOS SDK, which would give developers a chance to put some great apps in the hands of Palm fans and iPhone malcontents. In fact, the SDK isn’t coming until the end of summer.

“We’ve been working very hard on the SDK and are eager to open access on a wider scale, but the software and the developer services to support it just aren’t ready yet,” says Palm. I have to ask, then, did they pick the right time to launch the phone? It’s all well and good to try to gain ground before the new iPhone drops, but why launch when a solid app development platform could greatly improve the phone’s appeal? There are plenty of unsatisfied Apple/AT&T customers. Why not pick them up in the wake of the 3GS?

As of today, the Pre’s App Catalog sits at just 30 apps. At that level, they have no chance. Even if there were a couple hundred the Pre might have just enough appeal to lure in some the folks who spurned Apple’s advances. Show them multi-tasking with apps they love and you could start to build a base of very satisfied customers, and that’s exactly the way to gain market share.

For now, a lot of Pre users are content to homebrew their apps, porting games like Doom and piecing together tethering on the fly. But that magic can only last so long before serious developers get bored, or get so entrenched in the iPhone or Blackberry development that they all but forget about the Pre. That’s something Palm can’t afford. We’ll see how hungry developers are by the end of summer, assuming they stick around.


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