Whatever the doomsayers might have to say about Palm’s long-term prospects, we believe the Palm Pre, more specifically its amazing operating system, the webOS, has bought more than a few innovations to make even the most ardent iPhone/Android fanboys recognise what their precious phones are missing.
Despite the slow start made by the Pre and webOS in 2009, we have 10 good reasons why things can only look up for them in 2010.
1 No more app limitation
The app limitation was a bit like Palm’s attempt at being as annoying as Apple in its policy of dealing with apps. Even though Palm’s ‘App Catalogue’ only contains a handful of decent apps in comparison, for some reason Palm had decided to put a limit on the amount of space that could be used for storing downloaded apps. This not only meant that users would eventually run of out space and become unable download more apps without deleting existing ones, it put needless pressure on an already small pool of webOS developers to limit the size of their apps so that it would not become a sufferer of digital obesity.
It was just a bad idea no matter what reasoning Palm might have had behind it. Thankfully, the restriction has been lifted recently with the webOS update 1.3.5, which has already resulted in a lot of developers updating their apps to take advantage of features they previously could not and it will ensure that future apps have are no longer limited in this manner.
2 Open development
Up until now, application development for the webOS was limited to a small number of developers and partners. It was one of the main reasons that prevented the webOS from seeing the kind of rapid growth that it desperately needed as a brand new platform. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Palm officially announced that the webOS was now open to anyone who has the capacity to develop for it using any of the numerous tools provided by Palm; a move that should exponentially increase development for the webOS and that can only be a good thing.
3 Palm is still alive and kicking
When the Palm Pre launched just over half a year ago in the US, many industry observers believed this was Palm’s last chance to ensure its survival in an increasingly competitive smartphone market, and rightfully so given Palm’s financial situation at the time. Well, we are happy to report that Palm is still with us even if it may not completely be out of the financial woods just yet. It goes without saying that Palm is in no illusion of becoming the smartphone market leader either but that doesn’t mean it cannot be one of the major players. Palm’s leading investor Elevation Partners (which Bono himself is a part of) is ready to back Palm for the long-haul, so who are we to say otherwise.
4 New opportunities and incentives for developing for the webOS
In addition to the promise of ‘open development’ for the webOS, Palm has also announced a number of initiatives to encourage development for the platform. One such initiative is providing developers the ability to set up their own online stores that will allow them to distribute their applications over-the-air via Palm’s on-device app catalogue. On top of that, Palm has announced a reward program of $1m for developers of the most popular apps, which we hope will serve to entice developers further to build better quality apps for the platform.
5 Expansion to other carriers and countries
A platform cannot grow its userbase on innovation alone. Palm has realised this with the relatively subdued growth of the Pre on its exclusive carrier in the US, Sprint. That is why at CES, Palm officially announced that two new webOS devices, which I’ll get to in a minute, will be made available on the biggest carrier in the US, Verizon Wireless, which is 45 per cent owned by the multinational telecommunications giant, Vodafone group. This is considered a major breakthrough as it will help the Pre reach millions of customer it previously couldn’t.
According to our friends across the pond, Verizon has been incessantly promoting the Motorola Droid, which has done wonders for that phone. Palm hopes to achieve the same result with their new phones. While the move affects only US customers, it will eventually benefit both Palm and its customers across the world. In fact, Palm’s share has already rose since the announcement. With a bigger and wider install base, developers will not be able to ignore the webOS so readily either. Palm also announced at CES that the Pre will soon be available on SFR in France and will continue to expand to other territories as the year goes by.
6 Pre Plus & Pixi Plus
One of the highlights of Palm’s CES keynote was the unveiling of two new aforementioned webOS devices, the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, which are basically upgraded versions of the original handsets. Both devices boast a number of improvements that we think should give the webOS platform a fresh new direction it duly deserves.
The Pre Plus for example, not only doubles the memory and storage of the original, it is said to be a lot sturdier and has a nicer keyboard, too. The Pixi Plus saw the addition of Wi-Fi, which seemed strange to be absent in the first place. While the original Pixi has to arrive in the UK, we are hopeful both Pre Plus and Pixi Plus will soon make it our shores.
7 PDK and other software development tools
Palm also revealed at CES a new SDK (Software Development Kit) for the webOS, which they call the ‘Plug-in Development Kit’ (PDK). It will allow developers to finally be able to use proper programming languages to develop the kind of apps that the platform badly needs.
8 Video recording and editing
The flood of good news to have come out of CES doesn’t stop here. In the next webOS update, version 1.4, Palm will be adding one of the most craved features that the Pre had been lacking over the iPhone, video recording and editing. So at last, Pre owners will be able to record their pet animals perform the funniest things and upload the videos directly to YouTube and Facebook, or share them with friends via MMS and email.
9 Flash plug-in support
If there is one feature the Palm fanboys will certainly enjoy boasting about over their iPhone counterparts, it will be the addition of Flash support for all webOS devices. Sometime next month, a beta version of the Flash Player 10.1 will be released in Palm’s app catalogue that will allow webOS devices to become compatible with the latest and greatest Flash Player has to offer. According to Adobe, over 70% of web games are built on Flash and here is a video demonstration of why it’s such a big deal.
1O 3D Gaming
Perhaps the most exciting news of all from Palm’s CES conference this year was the announcement of 3D games finally making their way to the webOS. You know that PDK thing we mentioned earlier? That’s what it is for, and Palm has worked extensively with game developers such as EA, to bring it to life. A selection of 3D games is already available in the US app catalogue and will soon be available in Europe when the premium app catalogue launches here in March.
Rest assured Palm is only getting started. They will be hosting a keynote speech at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) to explain to the game developers’ community just how serious they are about mobile gaming and why the webOS is the perfect platform to develop games for. We are genuinely excited for what the future might bring.