Palm will introduce a web-based development environment for WebOS applications, called Ares, by the end of this year.
The storied mobile device company is up against tough competition for developers against the Apple iPhone, Google Android, Research In Motion BlackBerry and other mobile platforms. It released the WebOS SDK (software development kit) to a select group in April and to the public in July. The company said the SDK has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.
Ares will give developers another way to write WebOS applications and will allow fast development through a drag and drop interface, Palm said. It's designed to help web developers make the leap to becoming mobile developers, said Michael Abbott, senior vice president of application software and services at Palm. Ares will be available by year's end through the WebOS developer site.
It won't require any downloads or configuration, Abbott said. The environment includes debugging and a mechanism for developers to share libraries and APIs (application programming interfaces), Abbott said.
In a demonstration at the conference, a Palm engineer created a search application for the Flickr web photo site. Using a simulation of the WebOS phone interface, he dragged logos, a search field and button, a list widget and other components onto successive screens of the application. To link the new application to Flickr, he used an Ajax request that called a Flickr API.
Within the phone emulator in Ares, developers can see what the application will look like in both portrait and landscape view. When the application is finished, the developer can package it up, download it to a phone to try it out, share it with friends or submit it to Palm's application catalogue.
Palm is moving cautiously on its application strategy. Developers who got the SDK on its early release in April have been able to put their applications on Palm's app catalog since October, but there are only about 300 applications on it today, compared with about 12,000 for Android and more than 100,000 for the iPhone. Abbott said Palm wants to make sure all the pieces are in place before its full launch at year's end, when all developers will be able to submit their apps. For example, the company doesn't want to launch without all the necessary development tools in place, he said.
Ares will work on a variety of web browsers, including Firefox and Safari, though Palm has not worked on making it work on Internet Explorer, Abbott said.