It's been up for about two weeks but I finally got around to viewing Palm's hour-long developer preview webcast on Palm Infocenter. To no one's surprise, it turns out that programming for Palm's upcoming webOS, the operating system which will power the Palm Pre, is a lot like programming for the web. The information was very basic but it looks like webOS will be very easy to program for traditional PIM applications like Calendars and Contacts.
But what about more elaborate applications? People keep asking about games but I'm thinking more in terms of other classes of applications. Suppose I want to write a Usenet client for the Pre? It would have to connect to a Usenet server on the Internet and download articles using the NNTP protocol and install them into a database on the Pre. That should be no problem for a decent programmer (it might be beyond my abilities but that's another story). But what about other tasks that a good Usenet newsreader needs to perform like filtering, sorting, and purging articles? Will it be doable on webOS and will it be fast?
Another question is how easy will it be to add things that Palm leaves out of the Pre. Specifically, I'm thinking about a PalmOS emulator and Graffiti support. While I understand Palm's decision to not support legacy PalmOS applications, that doesn't mean I have to like it. So how long will it take to get a PalmOS emulator to run on webOS? I don't suppose that an application like WINE which is not an emulator in the strictest sense but does allow Linux to run many Windows applications is possible for running PalmOS apps under webOS?
And would it be possible for an enterprising developer to add custom gestures which would allow for character input—in other words a replacement for the PalmOS's old Graffiti character recognition system? A year ago, this probably wouldn't have mattered to me but then I upgraded my phone from my Treo 680 to a T-Mobile G1. Suddenly, I found myself using my Palm TX a lot more for tasks where my G1's Android OS didn't measure up to the PalmOS. And thus I rediscovered Graffiti. It sure would be nice to have a webOS Dashboard that could pop up a Graffiti like input area for times when I only need to enter a few characters and don't want to open the Pre's keyboard. I'd probably never use it after a while but it would be nice to know that it was available.
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