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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 When he refused, they rescinded the demand, but told him he needed to pay a $99 fee with a "verified" PayPal account, even though he was distributing his software for free.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.