Palm releases Mojo SDK, debuts public developer portal

Palm finally released its Mojo SDK to all interested application developers, in addition launching a new developer portal, Palm webOSdev. "I'm very pleased to announce that effective today we are wrapping up the webOS early access program," Palm Developer Community Manager Chuq Von Rospach wrote last week on the Palm Developer Network Blog. "We are doing this because today we opened up the program to everyone and released our new public developer portal... This is one more step in delivering webOS to all developers and providing the tools they need to build great applications for Palm phones."

The Official Palm Blog notes that even in its initial beta stage, more than 1.8 million apps have been downloaded from the beta App Catalog virtual storefront since the Palm Pre smartphone was first released in early June. Late last month, Palm reported the webOS developer community doubled in size overnight after the device maker sent out its first batch of invitations requesting programmers to sign on; the device maker adds the App Catalog submission process will be opened to all developers beginning this fall.  

The Mojo SDK isn't getting favorable marks from all developers, however. On his blog, developer Craig Hunter--the programmer behind iPhone apps including Butterfly Collection and Flow--writes "I knew that webOS development was based on HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, but I was hoping there was a way, some way, any way, to tap into advanced hardware features and software technologies. Chief on my list is OpenGL, which is a requirement for serious games. GL even became necessary for some of my simpler apps, like Kaleido and Butterfly Collection, since basic software rendering just isn't responsive enough for smooth animations at decent speeds. You need to tap into the graphics hardware with OpenGL ES. Sadly, my suspicions were confirmed--there is no way for developers to tap into OpenGL ES using the webOS SDK, despite the fact that the hardware supports it. So that's a major blow."

Hunter also cites issues with the webOS's accelerometer capabilities. "The accelerometer is desirable for games that use tilt control of course, but is also key to apps based on the equations of motion, like my gMeter (vehicle performance) and greenMeter (eco driving) apps," he writes. "Well, strike two--while the webOS SDK allows access to raw accelerometer data, it's limited to a 4 Hz sampling rate (that's four samples per second). Applications like gMeter and greenMeter need 50-100 Hz to even be practical, and most games need at least 20 Hz for smooth inputs that won't lag too far behind typical graphics framerates. A low rate of 4Hz is not usable for dynamic motion where high fidelity is desired. Accelerometer support in the webOS is suitable for detecting basic movement of the phone for interface rotation, but that's about it... With this limitation, webOS will not be taken seriously by consumers who place importance on games or sophisticated third party apps. The iPhone has raised their expectations too high."

For more on the Mojo SDK release:
- read this Official Palm Blog entry