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Samsung's TouchWiz App Development Kit Hobbles Into the Light

Samsung's a big player in the smartphone game, some might say surprisingly so since it's not really grappled the whole smartphone apps-equals-success meme. Until now that is: Its TouchWiz software development kit is out. And it's... odd.

Technically, this is just a new segment of the company's existing Mobile Innovator portal, but the end result is the same: Third party developers can now start knocking together apps for TouchWiz smartphones. Here's where it gets odd, unlike Apple developers with just a single OS, or even WinMo developers who have to deal with the several versions of Windows Mobile, TouchWiz devlopers will have to code their apps for compatibility for three different smartphone operating systems. Yup—Windows Mobile, Symbian and Samsung's own, simply because TouchWiz is a UI that sits atop these core operating systems...does that sound crazy to you?

Looking at the details, it actually makes some sense. Apps, or "widgets," for the TouchWiz phones are exclusively HTML, CSS, and Javascript based—somewhat like those written for the Palm Pre with its WebOS. As a result, their code should work on pretty much all the TouchWiz phones, with merely a couple of CSS adjustments to make things fit. Samsung's even giving developers a virtual device lab, which lets them test out how the widget performs on the different platforms.

So far, so great. It might actually be a taste of the future, where apps can be written almost independently, and then run in a sandbox or emulator interface on any powerful smartphone. That utopian ideal would put an end to squabbling over who's developing apps for which phone, and would put lots of power back in the hands of developers. But the current state of smartphone tech means it's not possible to treat each device as a black box yet, and merely run your apps on top of any OS. Also, these new TouchWiz apps probably aren't going to be as powerful or sophisticated as full apps on, say an Android phone—try rendering a full 3-D game in TouchWiz and you'll stumble across the limits of the programming languages and the differing graphical powers of each phone.

While Samsung's trying hard with this initiative, I can't see it necessarily luring punters into buying Samsung phones. The market's too fragmented into devices with proprietary code—with Apple's iTunes App Store leading the charge and Android and Palm chasing behind, each with its own protected armload of apps to tempt users. This group is so far ahead that Samsung's got an incredible amount of catching up to do.

[via MobileCrunch]