Developers await Palm Pre SDK

The anticipated new smartphone is due out in June, but access to the SDK has been restricted, and Palm has not set a date for general availability

The much-anticipated Palm Pre smartphone will be available from Sprint on June 6, but Palm has remained quiet about when the software development kit will be generally available for the device.

Palm is accepting applications from developers to test-drive the SDK, said Leslie Letts, Palm representative. But she did not know how many developers actually have had access. "We've always said as we get closer to availability, we'd share more detains on when the SDK would be public," Letts said Tuesday.

[ In an effort to create mobile app dev unity, The Eclipse Foundation unveiled Pulsar, a multi-vendor development platform. ]

But a couple of developers interviewed said they have been unable to get it.

"Basically, we started a Palm Pre users group down here, and unfortunately, Palm hasn't been very forthcoming in getting us a lot of details on where the SDK is going," said Charles Taylor, of the Southern California Palm preMongers user group.

"We need the SDK so we know what we have access to on the phone," such as database and GPS capabilities, Taylor said.

Without the kit, Taylor said he has been developing for Pre using HTML 5-compliant browsers. HTML 5 backing is specification featured in Pre. Taylor said he also has been working with early drafts of a book on Palm Pre's webOS to get acquainted with the device.

Previously available only to a select group of partners, the kit was to be provided to a broader set of partners as part of an April 1 announcement.  But Taylor said he has signed up for the early access program for the SDK and heard nothing from Palm. "Whoever's gotten it that must be a very select group," he said. Taylor said access to the phone itself has been restricted, too.

"[Shipment of the device] is less than a month out, a few weeks now, and we still haven't gotten any word on when the SDK is going to be available or what development environments will be available for the SDK," Taylor said. He said he is developing an application for Pre that would use GPS and track parking spaces in the Los Angeles area.

In explaining the limited access, the Palm Developer Network Web site said the company was still working on developer resources.

"The Palm Mojo SDK is brand new, and we're still actively working on our suite of developer resources. The Palm webOS platform will be a great platform for mobile app development, but we want to have a small group of developers kick the tires on our APIs, tools, and docs before we release them to the rest of the world," the company said.

At Pandora, maker of the Pandora Internet radio service now used on the Apple iPhone, the company has had the Pre SDK since December, said Tom Conrad, Pandora CTO. The company likely has been able to get to the front of the line because of its success on iPhone, Conrad surmised, adding the company also has the device itself.

"It's a phenomenal phone," Conrad said. "I'm certainly a fan of everything Apple's done with the iPhone, but the Pre is just a really, really great phone as well," Conrad said. Palm integrates data sources from around the Web with webOS, and users can move seamlessly between applications, he said.

The Mojo SDK itself can be plugged in to the Eclipse platform and also be used with a simple text editor, Conrad said. "You can get a developer [who is] familiar with Web development and get them productive in a matter of days," he said.

Another developer who has not been able to get the SDK was not upset.

"Earlier may be better but it's no good if the tool is not ready. As a programmer, I'm pretty sympathetic about the problems of getting something out the door," said developer Peter Wayner, an InfoWorld contributing editor. "Plus if the phone is not shipping, what good would the SDK do me?"

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