Palm Opens Floodgates On WebOS App Development

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Palm on Tuesday confirmed more details of its webOS app development program, and the new guidelines see Palm reaching out to developers -- especially open-source developers -- in a big way following a spate of webOS-related criticism.

Palm's webOS program has thus far only allowed app developers to submit applications to Palm through Palm's App Catalog. But starting in December, developers will be able to distribute their Palm mobile apps directly to webOS users, who will be able to locate and install them from the Web as well as buy them from the App Catalog if developers choose to place them there.

According to Palm, the program will have a $99 annual fee, and developers who want their apps available through Palm's App Catalog will be charged $50 per app. The $99 fee is waived, however, if developers choose to distribute apps in open-source code.
Palm also confirmed that app developers will pocket 70 percent of gross revenue from any apps sold.

The program arrives as Palm banks on increased sales of its Palm Pre and forthcoming Palm Pixi, hoping to build a robust mobile applications library around the two smartphones and maximize the visibility of its Linux-based webOS platform to compete with OSes and app stores developed by Google, Symbian, Research In Motion, Microsoft and Apple.

Katie Mitic, Palm's senior vice president of product marketing, said the program would be "unlike anything currently available and has been established to promote a thriving community by giving developers direct involvement in their own success."

"Whether you're looking for immediate distribution or just feedback on early stages of development, this program is built to scale to your needs and finally put you in control of investing in and promoting your business," Mitic said in a statement.

Palm took some lumps for its webOS developer program in August when it began inviting developers who wished to charge for their apps to start submitting them for consideration in the App Catalog.
At the time, a number of marquee developers, including Jamie Zawinski, publicly complained about the program's App Catalog-only limitations.

"The main problem here is that the only reasonable way that exists to distribute software for the Palm Pre is to get it into the App Catalog," Zawinski, commonly known as jwz, wrote in a blog post. "On Palm's previous operating system, PalmOS, you could download and install applications from anywhere. There was a thriving software ecosystem of third-party applications for the Palm Treo, Centro and their decade-long history of PDAs before that. ... But taking a page from Apple's playbook, Palm has now decided that they have to be the one and only gate-keeper for all the software on your Palm Pre, in a way they never did on the Treo, Centro and any of the earlier PDAs."

Palm's updated webOS app developer program seems to respond directly to those criticisms.

"We're listening to developers, and the message that they want choice and an option to self-certify their applications has come through loud and clear," said Mitic in the statement. "The flexibility that comes with our program's easy way to test mobile applications, as well as the ability for developers to use the Web to market and promote their own applications and boost sales, is invaluable."

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