Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pre Plus, 3D Games, Flash, oh my

Well as most people following Palm now know, we get 3D games immediately with Flash and some new webOS phones in the near future. These are the types of moves that Palm needs to be making in order to survive. Those were all great announcements, but they didn't directly impact our apps gDial Pro or Visual Voicemail.

The gift that we got from the CES announcements was that Palm was going to immediately allow developers to start distributing their apps using the web delivery method. For us, this was the biggest game changing announcement as it means we can update our apps and deliver those updates to our customers almost immediately. Anyone who has developed apps for webOS and published them in the App Catalog knows that from submit to publish can have a significant time delay.

We update our apps all the time with new features, bug fixes, polish, etc and we really wanted to be able to get each and every one of these updates out to our users with or without Preware. We weren't able to do this previously as we had to pick and choose which releases we would submit to Palm as it was likely that it would take 1-2 weeks for those updates to get reviewed and pushed out.

That has totally changed with the new web distribution model that Palm has enabled. We can keep on pushing select releases to the App Catalog for new users, but anyone who wants to get every update as soon as possible can now move over to our "Rapid Release" version which is web distribution only. It is the same app as in the catalog, but all updates get pushed as soon as they are tested right out to users.

One instance in the past where this would have been useful is when Google changed their Google Voice API and we fixed the bug in a couple of hours. It then took ~2 weeks for the App Catalog users to get this update due to the review process. If that were to happen now, we could have that fix up and live through web distribution just as fast as we could push it.

Kudos to Palm on implementing this as it puts them a bit closer to the realtime app distribution that Android provides for its developers. The only difference is that users must now switch over to a the Rapid Release version after having used the regular release vesion in the catalog which is added hassle for them.

And that brings me to the one area where I would like to see some improvement. Provide some mechanism so that we can do the realtime updates to the catalog apps. Even if the user gets prompted to enable the functionality and has it explained that the updates have not yet been reviewed by Palm. Basically use the App Catalog as just a sales tool that developers can pay to list in with some badge or something to indicate whether Palm has reviewed the app/update yet.

Otherwise the new distribution is great.

The other big announcement was the PDK which will allow for developers to write pieces of their apps in native code. Doesn't help us much, but my assumption would be that anyone using PDK is able to bypass some of the restrictions that are currently in place in the webOS API for accessing universal contacts, calendar, and other data. If the PDK allows this, then my hope is that they plan to also open this up in the webOS SDK. This is important to us to allow native universal search within gDial Pro of all contacts. We want our dialing to work just like the native phone. Also, it might be possible with the PDK to implement some of the more advanced features users have been clamoring for, like auto-answering the call in from Google Voice when you are using the web dial method of making outgoing calls.

All in all good announcements for the users and developers.

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