What webOS Means for Mobile App Development


From a developer perspective, webOS® is pretty straight forward. Most web app developers that have worked in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will find this very familiar. However as a native app, developers can also use the Services APIs which gives access to the hardware capabilities of a webOS device, which makes them much more powerful than just a web app.

Other features include the webOS application framework, called Mojo (which is a set of JavaScript APIs), which makes it easy to write multi-threaded, event driven applications. Apps can also run in the background, have multiple concurrent screens and generate alerts and updates.

Jumping into a little bit more of the tech side, there are also official plug-ins to the SDK which allows C/C++ as well as OpenGL/SDL application porting and development which may be useful in some situations. Also Ajax can also be incorporated to allow asynchronous data access without interrupting the user experience or impacting the behavior of the app running in the foreground.

Palm's previous experience with webOS before its acquisition by HP has created a very good range of tools, which most developers will find to be adequate for easy development and testing. Along with the basic SDK, developers have a range of supported emulators, including one through Oracle VM VirtualBox®, and well as plug-ins for the Eclipse® IDE for those that prefer an integrated development environment. Also unique to HP is the Ares browser-based IDE which gives you a complete integrated development environment from anywhere through the web.

To help with different display sizes, webOS apps can also be easily programmed to detect screen sizes and adjust accordingly. This may mean automatic resizing depending on the content, or pulling up specific graphical assets that are already optimized to specific resolutions. Also, there are many techniques that can help applications reduce resource consumption when minimized or running in the background or when the app is left idle.

HP's vision for webOS is much larger than just mobile devices. Starting in 2012, HP will also begin incorporating webOS into every PC it ships, which will give it a user base of over 60 million in less than a year. It is anticipated that this will function through a browser feature, not as a standalone OS, although it has that potential as well.

From an app development standpoint, this provides a lot of potential incentive to developing an app for the webOS app market, as well as incentive for having an app ready at the initial launch. However, as with other mobile platforms, success is codependent on the company backing the platform and the developers willing to support it. Developers must put a lot of faith into the company's ability to promote the platform and sell it to users, otherwise the developers will lose out. And HP puts a lot of faith in the developers to build a market that they can promote.

In either case, the ease of development on webOS as well as the extensive support from HP gives the platform a lot of potential for success.