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When Will webOS Get Developer Support?

by Jack McGrath | February 10, 2011February 10, 2011 7:00 am PDT

With all of the new webOS developments, will developers finally get behind the operating system?

With all of the anticipation concerning HP’s latest foray in the mobile universe reaching an apex at their press event held this week, it is easy to overestimate the projected success of the new installment in the company’s mobile operating system, webOS. Proprietary to Palm and HP devices and running on a Linux kernel, the operating system has been praised for its ability to multitask in a visually impressive way. However, its success has been hampered by the lack of developer support, as there are currently only 5,000 apps in their catalog, trumped by iOS’s 400,000. What will it take for developers to back webOS?

In past years, there has not been a great incentive for developers to jump on the webOS bandwagon. With only 18 third-party titles at initial launch of the Palm Pre, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to be a runaway success. With a few tidbits of information coming out of the event, times might be changing.

TouchPadHaving the ability to utilize diverse hardware to hit a myriad of demographics with relative ease is key for developers, and HP is now marketing webOS to the people behind the apps by saying that it comes in small, medium, and large. The TouchPad is going to provide another opportunity for tablet developers to utilize greater screen real estate, and with TIME giving the OS its full backing, it is sure to produce an immersive environment for app development.

Meanwhile, the traditional smartphone market’s applications are going to be substantially better when developers make use of the greater processing power and graphical capabilities found in the Pre 3. The Veer, spiritual successor to the Pixi, will account for the casual demographic. Moreover, the gradual diversification of the OS will bring developers to the platform.

On the software side of things, there are some significant improvements that have been made. Building upon the multitasking foundation the operating system is known for, HP announced that “Stacks” would allow users to group related cards, reducing clutter. As a developer, there is nothing that needs to be done to take advantage of the new feature, which is awesome, as typically developers want to avoid releasing updates as much as possible.

Developers are also going to be able to take advantage of “Exhibition,” which is a way to run apps specifically for phones that are charging on the HP Touchstone dock. The company is suggesting that developers think of creating lightweight, immersive applications, such as slideshows and RSS feeds, that will provide suitable at-a-glance information to accompany the feature.

There are also some great cross-application searching and management solutions that developers will have access to. “Just Type” is built upon their Universal Search functionality found in webOS 2.0. It allows users to utilize “Quick Actions,” giving them the ability to update social statuses, set reminders, or create a message without ever launching an application. HP Synergy, which was a critically-acclaimed feature found in webOS 2.0, will give developers the opportunity to employ the use of the system, connecting messaging apps, personal contacts, and calendars.

The ability to build C/C++ plug-ins for HTML/CSS/JavaScript is still in beta, but it was announced that it will be exiting that stage in the next iteration of the OS. This will give developers the ability to distribute apps that use their Plug-in Development Kit, which can be a lightweight solution for a graphics and performance heavy application.

The gradual trend of the Internet has shown that HTML5 is going to win out, and thus HP has announced enhanced capabilities within their SDK. Web storage is now supported and there is better Canvas support, improving image data and gradients. Geolocation will now be allowed through websites and apps, pending user permission, and websites can now cache information on the device for offline use.

Reflecting on every improvement made in webOS, I would be inclined to say that it will be more successful in the future. However, with the trend of hardware sales going downwards, it would be radical to say that HP’s App Catalog will ever reach a level comparable to the App Store from Apple.

What do you, developers and users alike, think? Will HP’s future endeavors in the mobile market prove more successful? Are you looking forward to any of the devices they announced? Let us know in the comments below.


Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...

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