Palm’s Mojo SDK: Solid, But Rough Around the Edges

Peter Wayner of InfoWorld has put Palm’s still brand new webOS Mojo SDK through its paces, and came away impressed. Still, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, but all in all the big advantage he sees is that over the course of the past few weeks, a very active and fertile community of developers has organically created its own development community, creating open source applications everybody is free to install – contrary to the iPhone.

There’s no going around the fact that the Palm Pre, its webOS, and the Mojo SDK will all be compared to the iPhone and its equivalents. The Mojo SDK uses CSS, HTML, and JavaScript to create MVC-style applications, and according to Wayner, this is dramatically easier to use than the iPhone’s SDK.

“This framework is dramatically easier than using something like Objective C. There’s no need to deal with memory allocation or pointers, two briar patches that often trap even the best developers,” he explains, “The appearance is specified in the HTML and CSS, languages spoken by graphic designers. The MVC architecture means you can hand the HTML and CSS to the designer and the JavaScript to the developer.”

There are downsides, too, of course, when compared to the iPhone and Android, with the current lack of OpenGL being the biggest drawback. “Game developers used to OpenGL on the iPhone and Android won’t be able to do much in 3-D,” he says, “But I think that casual, two-dimensional games will be easy once people get used to the idea that DIVs can roam all over the page in different layers.”

Wayner also has a number of suggestions for the future of the Mojo SDK, such as that he thinks Palm should borrow ideas from the jQuery world. There’s also the possiblity of a browser-based IDE “that lets people create and test rudimentary apps in their browser.” He points to Google Gadgets as an example of this.

The best thing about the webOS, though, is the already very active development community that has emerged around the young mobile operating system. Even though Palm’s App Catalog is still in beta and lacking in content, the community has created their own way of getting applications on the device, and Palm seems to be okay with it, as some of the applications developed during its PreDevCamp event are available this way. Good news for those bummed out by Apple’s insanely restrictive that’s-not-your-iPhone-it’s-actually-ours-policy. So yes, among the 108 apps in the Homebrew section, there’s a Google Voice client.

Developers on the webOS platform are taking this all even further by hacking into the Linux-based operating system and making use of the more raw technologies in there. “Developers are actively digging into the Linux foundations of the Pre and finding they can build tools that work with the raw guts of the machine. Some are talking about writing Java services underneath,” Wayner writes.

He concludes by saying that “the current version of the Mojo SDK is merely the start of access to a very fertile platform. The Web tools are so well known and well understood that it’s hard to understand why more manufacturers haven’t tried Palm’s tack before.” I have to admit that I get more excited about the Pre as time goes by. I’m up for a new phone, but I’m holding off until the Pre arrives in The Netherlands. Hurry up, Palm!


  1. 2009-08-13 1:18 am
  2. 2009-08-13 6:55 am
  3. 2009-08-13 7:49 pm