One cloud hovering over the potential success of Palm's upcoming Pre smartphone was its empty app store—definitely something for new buyers to bear in mind. But Palm, it seems, has got that base covered: the Pre's funky new WebOS will sport a "classic PalmOS" emulator mode.
That should give Pre buyers immediate access to the veritable goldmine of old PalmOS apps that are already out there on the net. Though the apps are older, and not optimized for the Pre's hardware at all, having them available out the gate will somewhat make up for the difference between Palm's nascent WebOS application store compared to the smoothly-growing Android marketplace and the stuffed-to-the-brim Apple app store. As a result, the Pre's status as a late starter looks less like an issue.
The information was discovered during a Palm demonstration walk through for Precentral.net, when a prominent "classic" icon became visible on the pre-production smartphone. There's not a lot of information available about the system yet, and we don't know if it will let you plop classic apps on the Pre's desktop, or if they have to always run "inside" the Classic emulator. The Classic emulation comes from Motion Apps, and they'll manage a list of compatible apps from the 30,000 or so that exist.
What is clear is that the Pre's advanced chips should make apps run much swifter than they ever have before. And for a deliciously retro feel, the "old" Palm buttons also look like they're replicated graphically on the Pre's touchscreen when it's in emulator mode.
This news hints at a competitive advantage for the new app store. Though Apple's thriving store for the iPhone currently touts "25,000 apps and counting," some commenters say the new emulator gives the Pre an edge over the iPhone. It's worth pointing out those 25,000 iPhone apps are new, and purpose-written for the device.