There comes a time in a Linux-loving geek’s life when he or she needs a new challenge. Making desktop apps isn’t hacking it anymore and building yet-another-website seems passe. If you want to jump into the world of mobile, here are a few reasons why HP webOS is the platform for you.
#1: It’s free.
There’s no cost to become a developer. You don’t have to pay any sort of fee to download the SDK or submit apps. The webOS emulator is free and our tools support development on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. We also have discount programs to help developers to get their hands on real devices.
#2: We give you full access to your device.
You don’t have to jailbreak or root your device.What other platforms call jailbreaking or rooting, we call entering developer mode. We don’t make you jump through hoops, purchase device certificates. or use questionable tools; instead, we provide simple shortcuts from our launcher and phone apps. Just tap on the “Just Type” search bar and enter “upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart” (the classic NES Konami code!); an icon appears that lets you toggle this mode on and off. In developer mode, you can get full access to the device over your USB cable.
#3: It’s Linux.
Once you’re in dev mode, it’s just Linux and WebKit. You can get a fairly functional shell on the device by using the command “novaterm” on Mac/Linux or by using “pdk-device-install” and PuTTY on Windows. We have many of the essential Linux commands available, tools like cp, vi, grep, find, diff, top, tar, and gzip, making it easy to find your way around the system. We include scripts in our SDK to sideload ssh and gdb.
#4: A lot of it is familiar technology.
If you want to use C and C++, our main build tool is gcc and our main APIs are SDL and OpenGL ES, both widely used systems with lots of support material online and in books.
#5: The source is easy to find.
Since apps are written in JS, it’s easy to find lots of examples just by poking around on the device. The in-ROM apps are all in /usr/palm/applications. Some have been compressed for faster loading speed, but we usually still have the original source there too. For the open-source parts of our OS, we have opensource.palm.com with all the tarballs and patches for the pieces we ship on phone.
#6: Our tools are hardcore developer-friendly.
You don’t need an IDE, but you can use one. Our main tools are command-line tools like palm-package and palm-install, but we ship an Eclipse integration plugin. Our emulator is a x86-based build of the OS running in the open-source VirtualBox system. We also have a web-based IDE at ares.palm.com that lets you build apps in your browser with a nice layout designer and a code editor based on Mozilla’s Bespin project.
#7: You can try cutting edge stuff.
#8: Our developer support is awesome!
The webOS developer forums are very active and members of both the developer relations and engineering team often answer questions there when other forum members don’t jump on them first. We also publish a lot of information directly on developer.palm.com and we hold great events like our Developer Workshops all around the world.
#9: webOS Homebrew Rocks!
We have an awesome independent developer community in webOS Internals that does things like replacement kernels, new system services, and overclocking tools. Our community produces innovations that have made their way into later webOS releases; for example, we liked the page cache compression work that they did to improve webOS 1.4.5 so much that we made it part of our standard Linux kernels on webOS 2.0. HP hasn’t tried to stop or silence these groups; instead we work with them when possible and even give them hardware to help with their explorations.
#10: Your open source project can make a difference.
Many of our best applications are open source, available either via our App Catalog or through homebrew channels including FourSquare, drPodder, pReader, Spaz (Twitter client), Relego (Read It Later client), and Preware, People have already ported over a bunch of Linux games using our SDL system, and there are efforts to bring lots of languages and tools onto the platform. If you’re an expert in porting some important bit of Linux technology, there’s likely a niche for you here in the world of webOS.