Palm Working on Improving webOS Performance

When talking about the webOS, one of the main complaints is often that the operating system feels sluggish, especially considering the Pre has the same hardware as the iPhone 3GS. At a webOS Developer Event in London, Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer (the Mozilla guys who joined Palm) talked about why this is the case, and hinted that it will be fixed sooner rather than later. They also addressed The One Question: will Palm ever open source the webOS?

The Palm pre sports more or less the same hardware as the iPhone 3GS, but Apple’s baby is considerablyfaster than the Pre – or at least, appears to be. As some of you might know, the Pre does have a powerful GPU; it’s just not being used. This is about to change, according to Galbraith and Almaer.

On ease of use, multitasking has been great; UI latency is still an issue even though the hardware is comparable to 3GS. The problem is the path to the GPU didn’t exist, but now with CSS transforms, that will be solved in the future.

Another problem with the webOS was the lack of raw 3D power for developers to tap into. This is apparently also being worked on, in the form of OpenGL support. It is worth noting that Palm recently hired AMD/ATI’s Linux engineer; he should certainly carry some knowledge on the subject. Getting proper OpenGL on the Pre (WebGL, maybe?) would open the door to more engaging games, too.

In their talk, the two former Mozilla guys also stressed that Palm is not in the business of selling APIs; as such, the company is involved with the BONDI and W3C widgets standardisation efforts. “Palm pays us, but they didn’t pay us enough to sell out,” they said, further adding that they are not going to tell developers to use “our funny proprietary API, you’ll love it”. The webOS Mojo SDK uses standard web languages, making it easy for people with experience in the field of web development to join in on the fun.

And, as promised The One Question. Will Palm open source the webOS? If it’s up to Galbraith and Almaer, the webOS would indeed be released as open source, but for now, it’s probably not likely.

In any case, when will Pre owners be able to profit from any possible speed improvements? It is possible that the release of the Palm Pixi, on November 15, will also provide an opportunity for Palm to release the confirmed webOS 1.3.1 update. Pre owners are currently wondering why the version number gets bumped from 1.2 to 1.3 – could speed be the reason?


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