Palm Updates webOS, Drops Hints at What’s to Come

Lots of news regarding Palm’s webOS the past few days. Not only did Palm release webOS 1.3.5, the company has also laid out a number of hints on what’s to come at CES coming January: OpenGL is here.

webOS 1.3.5

Let’s start with the release of webOS 1.3.5 first. This new release brings much-needed battery life improvements, lots of bugfixes, and also some performance improvements. One of the biggest changes is that Palm has fixed/removed the application limit, a much-hated ceiling you’d run into when installing applications.

The application limit was caused by the way the partitions in a webOS image were laid out. You have the root partition / (webOS itself and Palm’s applications), the /media partition (6.7GB of user storage space), and lastly /var, where your applications are stored. The problem was that this last partition was only 253MB in size, meaning you’d fill it up quite quickly.

Several homegrown solutions to this problem existed, but Palm’s own solution is relatively elegant: applications have been moved to a folder on the /media partition. This folder is encrypted when the phone is connected over USB to prevent people from copying the applications around.

The new version is available for both the Pre and the Pixi. The Mojo SDK has been bumped to version 1.3.5 as well.

CES: Gaming

With the Consumer Electronics Show just around the corner, it comes as no surprise that Palm is preparing some announcements to be made during the gadget show – lest we forget, the Palm Pre was first unveiled at CES 2009. The main theme for CES appears to be gaming.

It was pretty obvious that Palm has been working on providing developers access to the 3D chip inside the Pre so that they could create more immersive games. The webOS 1.3.5 update includes packages dealing with OpenGL ES, which should mean develpers can soon tap into the 3D chip. OpenGL ES is “a royalty-free, cross-platform API for full-function 2D and 3D graphics on embedded systems. It consists of well-defined subsets of desktop OpenGL, creating a flexible and powerful low-level interface between software and graphics acceleration.” It seems like this video, uploaded a month ago, is real after all.

In addition, it seems Palm has also been working on improving other aspects of the webOS that could aid in creating decent games for the young platform. For instance, accelerometer polling has been improved in 1.3.5, allowing developers to poll the meter 30 times per second, instead of just 4 times (it’s short of the iPhone’s 100 times per second, though), which should allow for more accurate controls. Also, a 3D demo using nothing but JavaScript and the HTML5 Canvas tag works on webOS 1.3.5, while it didn’t work on previous versions.

It’s easy to imagine that if you pull all these things together that Palm is hard at work to allow for more immersive and powerful applications and games, where you can also (finally!) tap into the power provided by the 3D chip. This should make it possible to create games similar to those on other platforms (geoDefense!).

Palm is slowly but surely increasing the capabilities of its new platform, and CES is sure to bring some interesting announcements from Palm.


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