Is Palm Driving Developers Underground?

An angry rant by a prominent developer describes Palm's app store as developer hell: fees, paperwork, and a PayPal account are required. But as counter-rants have pointed out, Palm is letting unofficial app stores thrive. Is Palm driving its third-party developers underground?

The writer of the rant, a well-know Bay Area developer and original engineer at Netscape named Jamie Zawinski, says that Palm's app approval process is even more byzantine than Apple's. (Below, homebrew Palm apps on a third-party site.)

He writes:

"Shortly after I wrote those applications in June, I mailed a few people inside Palm trying to figure out how to get them into the App Catalog, so that normal people could actually run them. In July, Palm publically asked for submissions for the App Catalog. I submitted my apps, signed up for their application-submission web site in July, printed out ten pages of PDF legal documents, signed them and scanned them back, then signed up for their web site again when they threw away the previous web site and created a whole new one in August, and basically jumped through dozens of hoops--literally dozens of email exchanges--from July through September."

Zawinski says Palm also demanded that he remove all his source code from public view, even though they were open-source projects he was merely porting to webOS. When he refused, they rescinded the demand, but told him he needed to pay a $99 fee with a "verified" PayPal account, even though he was distributing his software for free.

Palm has responded to the PR catastrophe with apologies, but hasn't promised that Zawinski's apps will make it into their store. Skirmishes like these might drive even more developers underground to app stores like PreCentral, taking Palm out of the revenue loop. Palm's app store is only three months old and has about 50 apps. PreCentral is pushing 250.

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5 Comments

  • Jensen Gelfond

    This is just a reminder that Palm is not a slick startup that came out with the Pre. . . it is the same old Palm, mired in bureaucracy and last-generation thinking. Did anyone really believe that just because they came out with a new device (even if that device was leaps and bounds above what they had before) that they could really turn around their corporate thinking that quickly? Palm has a long history of neglecting developers, which is why the state of applications for the Palm-powered Treo (I owned a Treo 700p) was such a cesspool.

  • Jensen Gelfond

    This is just a reminder that Palm is not a slick startup that came out with the Pre. . . it is the same old Palm, mired in bureaucracy and last-generation thinking. Did anyone really believe that just because they came out with a new device (even if that device was leaps and bounds above what they had before) that they could really turn around their corporate thinking that quickly? Palm has a long history of neglecting developers, which is why the state of applications for the Palm-powered Treo (I owned a Treo 700p) was such a cesspool.

  • Gregg Lebovitz

    The Palm Pre appears to be a fine phone, but Palm is currently an also ran as Apple leading the Industry. Palm itself is likely to be competing against Nokia as they ramp up their S60 and Linux platforms and provide free development tools for their S60 java, flash, and Qt programming frameworks, and Google pushes their Android platform with equally free tools.

    My only question to Palm is: "What the hell are you people thinking?." It's time to get your head out of your ass before you become the next technology road kill.

  • Roger Liebt

    As a long time Palm afficionado back from the Palm V days, it saddends my to see the company f*ck up thier only chance to get into the ring again. Obviously, they deserve their ill fate.

    Roger, http://liebt.at/

  • Jensen Gelfond

    This is just a reminder that Palm is not a slick startup that came out with the Pre. . . it is the same old Palm, mired in bureaucracy and last-generation thinking. Did anyone really believe that just because they came out with a new device (even if that device was leaps and bounds above what they had before) that they could really turn around their corporate thinking that quickly? Palm has a long history of neglecting developers, which is why the state of applications for the Palm-powered Treo (I owned a Treo 700p) was such a cesspool.