Palm's App Catalog, part 2

Palm made some announcements yesterday, so I suppose I ought to post a follow-up to my post about the nightmare of dealing with their App Catalog submission process.

After I posted that, it really made the rounds. I was surprised at how much press it got so quickly. So, with a PR disaster like that, you'd think the first thing Palm would do would be to finally post my apps, right? Well, they still haven't. Even though they stated their intention of posting my two applications in their app catalog way back in early July, neither the intervening months, nor the recent bad press, has caused them to actually post them.

Obviously I'm more concerned about the bigger picture: I want Palm to make it easy for all developers to get their software into the hands of anyone who wants it, without Palm being a roadblock between them.

But still, if you were Palm, wouldn't your first step be to actually resolve the problem for the guy who brought your broken system to the attention of the press? I guess they don't see it that way.

One of the new guys at Palm twitted at me that he wanted to talk on the phone about this stuff, and I replied, "What more is there to say? Just post my apps already." Apparently the peanut gallery thinks that was "rude", but after having spent three months, thirty-ish emails, and the aforementioned 160-line blog post explaining my position, I don't think they really require clarification on where I'm coming from. Seriously, have I been unclear?

The only conversation I'm really interested in having about this at this point is one that ends with them saying, "Hey, your apps are in the app catalog now." And you know, a one-line email saying that would do just fine. We don't have to do that on the phone.

Anyway, yesterday they made an announcement. Here's their press release and here's their attempt to explain what the press release says in English.

I found even the second link somewhat confusing, but as far as I can decipher, what it says is this: starting in December, developers will have these three options:

  1. Sell or give away your app through Palm's App Catalog, after Palm has reviewed, nitpicked and finally approved your app, and after you have paid $99 per year and $50 per application. Palm keeps 30% of every sale.
  2. Sell or give away your app through some kind of "second-class-citizen" app catalog that Palm intends to create, without Palm reviewing your app first. You still have to pay $99, and Palm still keeps 30% of every sale, but you don't have to pay $50 per app.

  3. If your app uses one of the recognized open source licenses (BSD, GPL, etc.) then Palm will let you give away your app in that "second-class-citizen" app catalog without paying for the privilege.

We still really have no idea what this second-class-citizen app catalog will look like, since they say it won't exist for two to three months. That means it doesn't help those of us who have working apps today that we would like to get into the hands of our users today, but it's a step in the right direction, assuming that getting things into the second-class-citizen catalog is a whole lot easier than getting it into the "real" catalog has been so far. (It won't surprise you to learn that based on their past behavior, I don't think that's a particularly likely assumption. But we'll see.)

But this is all needlessly complicated.

Here's what I want:

  1. A developer makes the executable of their application available on their own web site.
  2. A user visits the developer's web site via the web browser on their phone, and clicks on the link.
  3. A dialog box asks, "Are you sure you want to do this crazy thing?"
  4. The application installs. Done.

That's how it worked on PalmOS. That's how it works on desktop computers! Anything more complicated than that is just stupid.

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113 Responses:

  1. beschizza says:

    30% of stupid adds up.

    • lionsphil says:

      Not if nobody will buy the fucking things because nobody has developed applications for the fucking thing because if you're going to dance through somebody's stupid closed hoops, it may as well be Apple's because they have the market share.

      (We shall assume that persons such as myself who won't buy the fucking things because we remember how it worked on PalmOS and quite liked that model for small-scale development and distribution of amusing little hacks are irrelevant in the grand scale of things, for we probably are.)

  2. daveman692 says:

    The other bit they announced last night is that you can submit your app and get back a public URL which lets any Pre owner download and install your app without any review by Palm. I'm not sure where the instructions for this are, but it should avoid any approvals and the app catalog entirely.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, that is the "second-class-citizen app catalog" to which I was referring in points #2 and #3.

      • daveman692 says:

        Ah, ok. But that method doesn't require any sort of app catalog. You get an install URL for your app and can blog it, tweet it, email it, etc. Sure, app catalogs could be built around those URLs though.

        • jwz says:

          That's just semantics. Palm is still in control of it. It is their catalog, and the app is surely hosted on their servers.

          So maybe the user-facing interface for getting at apps is a web page instead of a "store" application that runs on the device. That's just an implementation detail. Palm is still mediating my interaction with my customers.

          • bobmonster says:

            This is just an educated guess, but I'm assuming the reason they want all apps to go through them is to identify any application which ends up on one of their phones. This means if it proves to be dangerous they have enough data to verify the problem and issue a remote recall.
            It avoids the desktop problem that dodgy software, once installed, is rather hard to find and get rid of.

  3. mutiny says:

    That would cut them out as the middle-man! How are they supposed to make a boatload of cash from other people's apps, like Apple, doing it that way?

    • jwz says:

      By providing a service for which people are willing to pay?

      If someone feels it is of value to them to have their application listed in Palm's official app catalog, they will pay for that. If they don't think it's of value, then they should be free to distribute their applications however they damned well please. Palm should get paid for this if Palm's resources are being used. If someone is downloading an application directly from my site, Palm doesn't even need to know that I exist, so why should I pay them?

  4. fo0bar says:

    This sort of lunacy seems to happen with any sort of app repository.

    I had been distributing the official Hampr Firefox extension through the Hampr website, but though, "hey, seems to be where all of the cool kids are." So I uploaded it to AMO, where all new extensions were placed in the Leper Colony. In the Leper Colony, users don't get notified of updates, and had to sign up for an AMO account to even be allowed to download the extension (this has since been changed).

    So I submitted the extension for inclusion in the regular archive. 5 days later, they came back with "Your extension seems to use object prefix names and could cause a collision with another extension called 'Hampr'. (Gecko uses a global namespace, even for extensions.) Change your extension to put everything under a single mega-object." Fine, whatever. I uploaded a new version to the Leper Colony and re-submitted my request. And waited.

    I finally gave up after 3 months of waiting, especially when I found out that even updates would get placed in the Leper Colony and have to be manually reviewed. I went back to distributing it via the Hampr website, where it, you know, works.

    And yet the NoScript guy somehow manages to get new updates released to the public AMO site every 3 days or so.

    • lionsphil says:

      It's almost as if these big, centralised systems didn't scale, or something!

      Which, you know, is pretty fucking ironic for a web browser, and a platform called WebOS.

      "The decision to make the Web an open system was necessary for it to be universal. You can't propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it."—Tim Berners-Lee, 1998

    • luserspaz says:

      The difference here is that you can still distribute your Firefox extension from your own website. Yes, the user will get an extra info bar saying "This site is trying to install software", but that's just a speed bump. There's nothing technically preventing it from working. does have some problems, but unlike with Apple or Palm, it's optional, and is only there to provide a smoother experience for end-users.

      • fo0bar says:

        I am aware of that. The overarching theme of my original post was "all app repositories are crap". Thankfully this specific one happens to be optional.

  5. netsharc says:

    But if they do it your way, they won't get 30% of the cut! A commercial developer can just put the download link behind a PayPal link, and Palm doesn't get any money. Looks like potential profits ("look at Apple, they sold 2 billion fart apps!") has trumped developer-friendliness this time.

    So they need to control the distribution method, and I assume only allowing apps to be installed from their (or whatever) server is their best option.

    I had a thought of an alternative way though, which is still inconvenient for you:
    1. Developer registers his public key with Palm
    2. Developer signs his binaries, publishes it on his site.
    3. When the device tries to install the binary, it asks Palm's server if the developer's key is still valid. The key can be revoked for breaking whatever rules Palm might have (Hmm, how to make it work for selective blocking of some apps but not all?).

    The binary can still be put behind a pay-wall, but I guess the installer can check with the main server and tell the user "The developer has said this binary is free, if you paid for it, please contact us.".

    • annodomini says:

      Why does Palm need to get a 30% cut of all app sales?

      Apple doesn't get a 30% cut of all sales for software I buy on my Mac. Microsoft doesn't get a 30% cut on all sales for software on Windows. Why should Apple get a cut of all iPhone apps, or Palm of all WebOS apps? It's a stupid business model that harms the platform, and makes it much more valuable to write stupid throwaway iFart apps for 99¢ than to develop real, new, innovative apps that take time and effort and might simply be rejected on the whim of someone who thinks that they might compete a little too much with the vendor supplied apps.

      • dr_memory says:

        It's a stupid business model that harms the platform

        Yes, which explains Windows Mobile's complete and decisive victory in the market against the iPhone.

        Oh wait...

        • lionsphil says:

          Because there couldn't possibly be any other factors behind that, such as Windows Mobile's terrible reputation, and association with an age of Microsoft software when "Blue Screen of Death" jokes were still relevant and funny.

          • dr_memory says:

            But that's exactly my point: a wide-open development environment is nice for (some) developers, but it really seems to have fuck-all with how well your device/platform does in the marketplace, or if there's any correlation at all to be found yet, it's weakly negative. If your platform is shit (WinMo, Garnet, LiMo), it won't save you. If your platform is really good, a closed app ecosystem need not hurt you (iPhone, Blackberry, arguably Danger) and maybe even helps. Palm is a company that's been teetering on the edge of total failure for 5+ years now: what's their motivation to imitate the losers, precisely?

            • lionsphil says:

              True. That does disregard selecting between "good" platforms, which we shall assume that both iPhone and Pre are (else one of them is fucked anyway, and people don't seem to think it's iPhone).

              Apple have a head start on market share, and hence third-party apps. You'd think Palm would want to make it easy for others to make their platform catch up.

              (iPhone vs Blackberry, as I understand it, isn't really an issue because they cater to different markets?)

            • annodomini says:

              Any correlation there is purely incidental, as it's swamped by other factors. The Blackberry was the first phone to market with real, functional email. That's pretty much the reason anyone buys a Blackberry. The iPhone was the first phone to market with a real, functional web browser. That's pretty much the reason it has won in the market. Other factors like the interface, trendiness, and so on play in.

              WinMo is just a lousy platform, with no real compelling features. I don't even know what Garnet is, so clearly they've failed pretty badly at just marketing. And does LiMo actually exist as a real platform on shipping phones (it looks to me like it's targetted at lower end phones that aren't really compelling development platforms)?

              So yes, there are other factors that can influence the success of a phone than whether it has an open development environment. No one is arguing that; the iPhone is pretty damn successful. But the closed platform does harm the platform; there are developers (such as myself, and JWZ, and many others), who will not develop for such a closed platform.

              And for the Pre, which has a late start on the iPhone, I'd say it will hurt more; as it's not as big a market as the iPhone, developers will be a lot less willing to put up with their shit in the hopes of making a profit. In order to succeed, the Pre needs to be better than the iPhone in some way, not merely almost as good. They're already at a disadvantage by being later to market, and not having the same level of marketing and industry buzz. I'd say being available only on Sprint is another fairly significant disadvantage, at least in my area. I just don't see how they're going to compete with Apple's App Store if they're going to make developers jump through as many hoops as Apple does; the only reason people put up with that shit with Apple is because a 99¢ fart app can make tens of thousands of dollars in sales in a few days. That's not true on the Pre, and it's not looking likely to be true any time in the foreseeable future, so if they want to build their platform and get people developing for it, they need to provide some incentive to developers over what the iPhone offers. I'm not sure if there is any such thing they can do other than actually opening the platform up.

              • dr_memory says:

                pssst: Garnet was the previous PalmOS. You know, the wide-open-for-developers, first-to-the-marketplace paradise that Palm's current offering is being compared to up and down this thread. But I don't dispute your assertion that it failed pretty badly.

                there are developers (such as myself, and JWZ, and many others), who will not develop for such a closed platform

                I certainly don't dispute that. What I'm unsold on is the assertion that anybody should care.

    • bobmonster says:

      Isn't that just Symbian Signed?

  6. siraris says:

    Are you still going on about this? Really? Are you that indignant? Do you really not understand the press release? I had no trouble reading, and understanding it, and neither did Tech Crunch who lays it out for you clearly.

    What you ask for in your 4 point bulleted list, is EXACTLY what Palm is going to do.

    As for your apps not being posted, there has to be a reason, and Palm has no obligation whatsoever at this point to tell you why they weren't. Many apps have already been posted, and ALL of them were free. You are submitting your app to Palm in order for them, by their good graces, to put in their app catalog. This is a service that is still in beta, and you, as a developer, should understand as well as anyone what that means.

    Your whining has made a relatively large corporation change its policies in a matter of weeks. Instead of being pleased, and proud of that fact, you just continue to bicker and whine on your journal because you didn't get everything you wanted. How egomaniacal can you be?

    • jwz says:

      First of all, fuck you too. Let's just get that out of the way.

      Second, if you don't like what I write about on my blog, you should by all means feel free not to read it.

      Third, what Palm said, and what Tech Crunch repeated -- "developers can simply submit their apps to Palm, and Palm will return to them a URL that they can then blog" -- is most emphatically not what I asked for in point 4. If they are going to "give me a URL" then that means the data is hosted on their servers, but more to the point, it means I have to go through Palm to get my application into the hands of my users.

      Maybe that's not what they meant. But that's what they said. I am taking them at their word. I'm sorry your reading comprehension skills seem to be stunted.

      Fourth, my entire point in all this is that I should not have to rely on Palm's "graces", whether "good" or not, to distribute my applications to people who want to run them. That, dear sir, is Bullshit.

      • siraris says:

        First of all, wow, are you a self righteous douchebag or what?

        Second of all, if it really bothers you that much, go develop the app for Windows Mobile or Android. I think WebOS and the app store will survive without the amazing Dali clock.

        Thirdly, you really need to get over yourself. Palm has listened to what you had to say, and gone out of their way to accommodate some anonymous internet crybaby. Not only would most companies out there not go the distance that Palm has, they would simply ignore you. Instead of acknowledging that, you continue on your pissy tirade about how you aren't getting your way. Welcome to real life, you usually don't get your way.

        Palm has setup their infrastructure so that you need to go through them. They have their reasons, and if you want to develop for their platform, you have to follow their policies.

        • lafinjack says:

          They have their reasons, and if you want to develop for their platform, you have to follow their policies.

          Except these policies are in direct contrast to the policies of whenever ago, and apparently shit all over the people that gave money to Palm so Palm could get themselves where they are today.

        • i_e_d says:

          Strangely your otherwise mentioned OS' do the exact same thing.. Apple through their unlocked, verboten grey market apps.. winmo.. through.. well lets face it they haven't even got a marketplace together.. android also does the aformentioned.. hey I trust this let's go.. so no JWZ isn't at all out of line in asking for a alternative to letting someone else mandate that you must use their marketplace.. or not publish at all

        • n0man says:

          I recommend you avoid glancing at any mirrors while you fight your heroic fight against self righteous douchebaggery.

        • spoonyfork says:

          I think you're confusing douchebaggery with being unreasonable. Jay-doubleyew-zee's exposure of Palm's narrow policies incited change but not enough change for it to be considered reasonable. Our collective progress depends on jwz (and others) being unreasonable. Why would you rage against that?

          • siraris says:

            Why would I rage against that? Because I find his requests unreasonable, and I find his belief that he is entitled to a company bending over backwards for his demands because he didn't get what he wanted in the first place.

            This entire campaign began because he didn't get his apps approved. If Palm had approved his apps, he probably wouldn't even have written the post, Palm would never have even offered this new venue for free applications, and almost no one would have heard of jwz. But because they slighted him (in his mind) he not only wants his original request, but now he wants vengeance for the slight as well.

            I don't see how Palm's policies are "narrow". Palm was the company who had the policies in the past that he yearns for, and they changed them. They do not want to allow users to run stand alone executables on their platform unless it goes through them. Why do they feel this way? Well, there could be any number of reasons, and I do not really care to spend the time to try to figure out what they are. But they obviously weighed their options, and they decided that allowing people to distribute their apps in this fashion was not the direction they wanted to go in.

            The fact that Palm did what they did based essentially on one person's dissatisfaction, casts Palm in an tremendously positive light, at least to me. This is something that Apple would NEVER do, short of an utter revolt from their development community. And how is it greeted by the person who initiated it? Contempt and more vitriol.

            People can now distribute their app on the Pre, for free (no charges) to anyone they want. What is the big fucking deal if the executable is stored on Palm's servers as opposed to the developers? Do you really need that much control? Can it not be appreciated that a company has gone out of its way to appease an extremely small number of people? Obviously not.

            So I take issue with the entitled behavior that jwz is displaying here, and the utter lack of appreciation and respect he is showing towards a company that has gone out of its way to please him. You rarely, if ever see that from companies, big or small.

            • jwz says:
                Palm would never have even offered this new venue for free applications, and almost no one would have heard of jwz.

              I coulda been a contender!

              • siraris says:

                Well, I should apologize, as I didn't know who you were. While I have been on the internet for close to 2 decades, I was not aware of you as my programming experience hasn't really touched on the open source realm. Based on my initial exposure to your posts, I assumed you were some anonymous armchair developer who was pissed because he wasn't important enough to make the app catalog. I read a lot on the net, and I doubt that 99% of the message board posts/comments I read are from people who have their own Wikipedia page, and have contributed in the way you have to the open source community. My initial response was fueled, in part, by my lack of knowledge of the person behind the text. I can understand the vitriol and attacks against me from your blog, and I'm big enough of a person to apologize.

                But that being said, I still don't agree with your response to what Palm has done on your behalf. There was no appreciation on your behalf, and I still feel that you come across as entitled. Palm has been extremely open, humble, and inclusive in the process so far with WebOS and the Pre. From thanking homebrewers, to including homebrew apps in the catalog, to a strong support of sites like Precentral, and now what they're doing on your behalf, their behavior is something that you rarely if ever see from a company of their size and stature. To not show some appreciation of that, just sends a really inappropriate message.

                But you're entitled to say, and feel what you want, and you certainly have brought about some really impressive changes in such a short time. I guess there's something to be said about that.

                • ajaxxx says:

                  Palm has been extremely open, humble, and inclusive in the process so far with WebOS and the Pre.

                  Except that, in comparison to every other platform they've ever shipped, they haven't.

                • jmtd says:

                  I don't think it matters who jwz is or how much clout he has. He isn't responsible for Palm cow-towing to him. Any discussion should (imho) be on the merits of what he said rather than who said it or on what basis Palm responded.

                  • netsharc says:

                    Unfortunately that's just what happened. If it was someone else, no one would've cared, but jwz has his following, and when he gets pissed off, people listen. If only to entertain themselves with the ensuing storm.

                    Like the entertainment of siraris insulting him and then learning about his holiness.

                  • alana_ash says:

                    Any discussion should (imho) be on the merits of what he said rather than who said it or on what basis Palm responded.

                    You're new to these Internets, aren't you?

                • deus_x says:

                  Well, I should apologize, as I didn't know who you were. While I have been on the internet for close to 2 decades, I was not aware of you as my programming experience hasn't really touched on the open source realm.

                  So, really, this is like you've been driving for 20 years but never changed a tire or checked your oil. It's kind of hard to be on the internet for that long - especially as a programmer - and not to have gotten a sense of what's what and who's who in open source and the history of the net and web in general.

                  Along with apologizing, you are tasked with doing makeup homework for the past 20 years of GNU, Netscape, and Mozilla history. I expect a 2000 word essay on the topic here by next Friday.

                • strathmeyer says:

                  The way you keep using 'anonymous' and 'armchair', I don't think you know what they mean...

            • radven says:

              "and almost no one would have heard of jwz"

              Uhm, you haven't been around the internet very long, have you?

            • emtel says:

              Please go fuck yourself and then go back to digg, or wherever you came from. I love reading the comments on this blog, but only when they aren't full of stupid.

        • edouardp says:

          Sir, your correspondence of the 7th states:

          They have their reasons, and if you want to develop for their platform, you have to follow their policies.

          Well, no. Mr. Zawinski is having a lot of success changing their policies through his actions.

          Certainly a lot more than, say, if you were to try and affect a similar change. But then that's because Mr. Zawinski opinion carries much more weight than yours.

          I hope that doesn't make you feel unimportant. Or insignificant. Because that would come across as kind of pathetic.

          Thank-you for your contribution though.

          • edouardp says:

            And then you go and post a reasonable and apologetic comment, and I end up feeling like a sarcastic dick. Sorry my friend.

  7. houdini_cs says:

    My BlackBerry (Tour, though I don't think that matters) does what you're asking for. There's an app store, or I can just go to some website and say "hey, I know what I'm doing, run that thing".

    • stormgren says:

      Given how corporate-oriented RIM is in general, the fact that a standalone Blackberry is easier to get apps on and has a generally better (or at least more complete) development environment as compared to the Pre's blows my mind.

      I'm a rather happy Pre owner (for the moment) after switching from the Blackberry, I just wish Palm would hurry up and actually complete WebOS before I get too frustrated with it.

      (Hey Palm, the Internet is not just HTTP, how about some actual sockets support?)

      • jayp39 says:

        As someone who works for a company that is developing apps for Blackberry, Android, iPhone, Pre, WinMo and Symbian, I laughed at this part: "has a generally better (or at least more complete) development environment as compared to the Pre's." Although the distribution is more open, we've had to guy a key with which to sign our apps and pay for membership in the BB internet alliance in order to be able to ensure that, you know, the app can actually use the internet on every network.

        Of all the platforms we're developing on, BB has been the most challenging (or retarded) according to our devs (I just do PHP, so this is all second-hand knowledge).

        Of course, our iPhone app is sitting at the approval stage indefinitely, so we're technically in better shape with our blackberry app right now.

      • houdini_cs says:

        Mine is even joined to a BES server, though the behavior of adding apps didn't change when I did that.

  8. dasht says:

    In a world with software freedom. these kinds of problems wouldn't come up. Just sayin'


  9. notthebuddha says:

    Isn't it justifiable for Palm to keep its hand in enough to react to an app that that yields problems outside itself when installed?

    • sherm says:

      The last 30 years of computing history say "hell no, it's not justifiable."

      The thing is, Palm is aware of this to the degree that their own previous products do things "right" and this scheme is only in play because Apple is bringing in dumptrucks full of cash with it.

      • notthebuddha says:

        What about gaming console history? They have been gate-kept for even longer and are still successful.

        • sherm says:

          Maybe financially successful (sort of, the last couple generations of consoles are being sold at a loss in hopes of future licensing/subscription fees), but certainly not successful as a computing platform. There are like four publishers, all of which must line up behind Ninsonysoft's business plans for the privilege.

          • notthebuddha says:

            But it still makes money for the gate-keepers. I don't see that Palm is sincerely marketing a general computing platform so much as an iPhone alternative, so it makes sense for them to control what they would see as potential experience-wrecking mods, rather than value-adding apps.

      • shandrew says:

        The difference between Apple, at the intro of the App Store, and Palm, today, is huge. When the App Store opened, Apple had already sold 6 million iPhones over the course of a year, and they were closed devices, and people bought them without any expectations for external applications. So when the App Store showed up, it was gravy.

        About 1 million Pres have been sold at this point. Most of these users are somewhat technical, and they've come in with an expectation that they'll be able to run external applications at some point. These expectations are driven by the iphone and previous experience with Palm.

        This is why Palm cannot simply copy Apple's model. They don't have the installed base, and they have a different set of expectations for openness. The underdog/latecomer cannot behave the same way as the market leader.

        • jwz says:
            The underdog/latecomer cannot behave the same way as the market leader.

          And if more CEOs and VCs understood these simple words, there would be less corporate roadkill stinking up the median strips.

        • sherm says:

          What? "Me too" is an AWESOME business model - someone already took out all the risk!

          But seriously, I'm not so sure that's an abject failure here - the iPhone's major weaknesses for most (US) customers are price (although the entry-level has come down a bit with the latest re-segmentation) and AT&T. A total ripoff job that avoids those two (completely CEO-related and not technological) problems sounds like a pretty solid plan...

    • jwz says:

      It's funny, we've had a personal computer industry for about thirty years now. Seems to have been going pretty well. Don't you think? And so far, the hardware/operating system vendors haven't felt the need to retain a veto power on applications written for their platform, or to take a 30% cut of the profits of everyone else's work. This is a new "innovation" that Apple, mouth wrapped firmly around AT&T cock, invented a couple of years ago.

      I'm against it, actually.

      • notthebuddha says:

        It's funny, we've had a personal computer industry for about thirty years now. Seems to have been going pretty well. Don't you think?

        The closed platform video game industry has been around longer, and makes similar amounts of money, doesn't it?

        • thumperward says:

          The video game industry, at least outside North America, had an entry barrier no higher than the purchase of a disk drive or tape recorder until well into the 80s. On the console side, being able to physically manufacture and ship PROMs full of code was the main barrier until Sega and Nintendo started decided to impose themselves via BIOS protection mechanisms, which wasn't until the 90s. Unsurprisingly, this made developers hate them, and when Sony offered a far more open and friendly development environment for the Playstation everyone and their dog jumped as soon as they could

      • cdavies says:

        Not that I'm defending idiotic closed platforms like the iPhone or WebOS, but the phone is not the computer.

        People have totally different expectations from consumer electronics than they do from their desktop or laptop. They shouldn't do, but the mediocrity of desktop software is a well established tradition. Firstly, people now have zero support expectations from their PC vendor, whereas they have high support expectations from their mobile operator. Note, it's the mobile operator not the handset vendor that bares the brunt of the support costs, which is a cost they need to factor in on top of the handset price.

        This means that your handset should never, ever crash and burn. Ever. "It was the application the stupid user installed that dunnit" isn't an excuse. In Japan, where quality means something, they'll initiate recalls for what desktop software engineers might think of as relatively minor defects. All this means mobile operators are actually kind of wary about what users run on their devices, and in fact all smartphone OSes to some extent or other have capabilities to restrict what can be installed, and to kill software both before and after it is installed. There are just a million better ways to handle doing that than Palm is.

        But anyway, Apple and Palm are doing their level best to bring the desktop mediocrity culture to the phone, which means your phone will drop every third call, but hey, at least there's a cute fail screen to tell you it fucked up.

        • lionsphil says:

          I'm sorry, but once it's a device I can reply to e-mails on, it's got into PDA territory, and I expect PDAs to be general-purpose computers, as they have historically been. I want to be able to hack up a little tool that turns it into a stylophone or whatever to amuse myself and stick it on my PDA without checking with Big Brother, and let others do the same.

          The way to fix crap applications shafting the phone is half-decent sandboxing, not DRM.

          (Disclaimer: yes, you probably know that.)

  10. edouardp says:

    I was going to write that Apple is to blame, but that's really a bit too simplistic. It really boils down to people looking at something that is successful and managing to walk away with the wrong lesson.

    Lesson 1: "Apple has created an infrastructure to make it as easy as possible for customers and developers to interact."

    Lesson 2: "Wow - Apple is making whaleloads of money from their developer's work!"

    If we assume that Palm has taken away the second lesson, then their actions seem pretty logical. "Apps available from other websites? How do we make whaleloads of money then?" "Free apps? Well how are we going to make whaleloads of money off of those?"

    On the flip side, the press you are getting has quite possibly made them go "Hey - this guy is making us look bad! That might hurt us making whaleloads of money if our
    developers read about it and decide to jump over to Apple."

    It's *almost* as if someone at Palm is considering that they need the developers more than the developers need them. But I'm sure the dreams of dancing dollar signs and private jets will nip that kind of defeatist thinking in the bud. "Look - I put it all in the spreadsheet; simply assuming we are twice as successful as Apple means we make BILLIONS from these developers!!" They wouldn't want to let anything get in the way of that.

    I once loved Palm (actually I still have fond memories of my Palm V, and even of some of their subsequent releases), so I understand where you are coming from. Continue fighting the good fight!

  11. illyich says:

    that the people who feel like they are representing Palm's interest in this PR altercation haven't bothered to ask, "Gee, what was Palm's model the last time they were doing well?"

    • rapier1 says:

      Does Palm's model from ten years ago actually make sense today though?

    • dr_memory says:

      "Gee, what was Palm's model the last time they were doing well?"

      As I recall, the same model they had when they were doing very, very badly. Apparently it did not save them.

  12. meshuga says:

    Ever seen filecoaster? Or Preware? Two repos that I use everyday with tons of webos apps, outside of palms control. (Actually, I switched to Preware exclusively now, but used Filecoaster for months prior)

    In fact, some apps, like GDial Pro, are in both the Real App Catalog and homebrew catalogs like FileCoaster and Preware, with Palms consent. Same with Music Player Remixed, and many others apps. I think jwz is blowing this a little out of proportion, considering avenues do exist that Palm is aware of to get apps and they are a-ok with it. True, you can't goto any website in the world and install an .ipkg for webos, but at least if you feel Palm, Inc. is too draconian there is alternatives.

    Both Music Player Remixed and GDial Pro (the beta ver, not the app catalog ver) use undocumented APIs so Palm has not allowed them yet, but said they can exist in homebrew land until the time comes when they are using published APIs.
    This was all covered on

    • jwz says:

      I think it's awesome -- and somewhat inevitable -- that people have been able to hack around Palm's broken system, just like people jailbreak iPhones, but it's just not easy enough, and probably never will be. If your apps can only be run on jailbroken phones, you will lose out on the vast majority of your potential users. Any sane developer would like their apps to be runnable by people who do not have the early-adopter "maker"-like attitude that causes them to take the virtual screwdriver to their phone. It's great that those people are out there, but most people -- sane, normal people -- are afraid of breaking something that way, and won't ever do it.

      I want Palm to fix their broken system so that Preware is no longer necessary.

    • lroberson says:

      Valid, but Preware doesn't really hold a candle to the App Catalog's presence. How Preware and Filecoaster pale in comparison to the App Catalog as an effective distribution channel has already been discussed here and elsewhere... The platform will grow when an abundance of good, free apps make their way easily into the App Catalog, which will drive competition and development further.

      Forking this off into a private distribution channel really doesn't help the platform at all. It merely attempts to appease developers who aren't going to go through the hassle and investment of App Catalog registration. And you know what? It feeds greedy douchebaggery in the App Catalog and makes it harder for folks to find potentially better-maintained, superior, free or lower-cost alternatives because they have to go hunt them in the wild internet. Hell, even a "there-be-dragons here" area of the App Store would be way more acceptable to me than a URL I have to whore around just to get my free software distributed.

      Obvs, everyone is still learning here. We can't expect perfection in their distribution system. But Palm should have seen this coming when they omitted this from the new OS. Why not just a giant preferences toggle with 10 chained warning screens that unlocks OTA, HTTP-downloadable apps? It should be easy enough to do, but they still won't. Let's take a trip back to 2002 (NB, approximate date, you pedantic assholes out there) and examine their older product offerings that had around or less than 16MB of user-available space (INCLUDING media, photos, preferences, text messages... actually, EVERYTHING) and basic 1xRTT data connections and were STILL built for HTTP application downloads. What was so hard about building an App Catalog on top of that? That's all they had to do. Instead, they have two options, which are BOTH fucked up.

      • radven says:

        "What was so hard about building an App Catalog on top of that? That's all they had to do."

        I was working for years on integrating over-the-air direct-to-device application discovery, installation, upgrades, and a standardized purchasing system directly into PalmOS.

        Our architecture would have supported free and commercial software, direct download from developer sites, and even multiple stores built on top of the same standard packaging system.

        We even had in place support for a "tip jar" that would let you donate directly to open source projects or free software that you liked.

        There was a lot more too, and a lot of it was actually pretty darn close to release.

        All that we did manage to get out the door before PalmSource canceled me and the project was the PalmSource Installer. The rest of the roadmap never saw the light of day. *sigh*

        Not that I am bitter or anything, but had this not gotten killed 4+ years ago, the world would look significantly different today.

  13. kyhwana says:

    Durp. I know two people who work at palm! Well, one works in ITS and the other in QA, but still.. will point them this way

  14. lovingboth says:

    Just looking at the press release, I have two comments...

    a) If I wanted people not to be able to read all of something, I'd have it display as white on increasingly light blue too.

    b) The problem is at the start of the second paragraph: '"Our program will be unlike anything currently available..." said Katie Mitic, senior vice president, Product Marketing, Palm, Inc.'

  15. satanlvsu2 says:

    I think so.

    Why give a hard time to the guy who's been there a week and is reaching out? He's not going to be the one to press the magic "post JWZ's apps" button, but now he's not going to be able to use "talking with me is a waste of his time" as motivation to convince co-workers (who also treat him with "you've been here a whole week dude") to get their shit together to do what they need to do.

    • lionsphil says:

      It's twitter. Of course it's going to be a curt response, jwz or not. Within the stupid confines of idiotic technology, there is little space for civility. (156 characters)

      Presumably Pre development is filed entirely under "hobby" in jwz's schedule, and when was the last time you wanted to spend your downtime having phone conversations reiterating the same information about the same stupid obstacles to letting other people at your hobby hacks?

      • satanlvsu2 says:

        Being rude because you expect no result does not justify being rude. Nor does the medium. The fact is the guy reached out. There was a better way to tell someone who was trying to help that you're not interested in calling. I'm sure jwz is okay with being rude. I'm positive it's not the first bridge he's burned. But I imagine the result from that was the guy will now not try at all, or probably go back to his new co-workers and tell them "jwz is an asshole". Then in also inappropriate behavior someone will shelf his apps forever.

        • lionsphil says:

          There you go again with the "rude" assumption, because 140 characters are not enough to disambiguate that from exasperation.

          I agree that the result was counterproductive, but I disagree that it was the intent—as evidence, I raise "apparently the peanut gallery thinks that was 'rude'".

          • satanlvsu2 says:

            It's not an assumption. It based on my opinion perhaps, but not without evidence. And again, length of message and medium do not change anything.

            "apparently the peanut gallery thinks that was 'rude'" reinforces that he knew it was rude and didn't care.

            I'm suggesting that he should, or at the very least not be intentionally rude to strangers, especially ones that want to help, even if misguided and fruitless.

            • cnoocy says:

              When you're a customer service representative making a direct contact with a customer that has been previously poorly served by the company, that customer's response isn't rude until they start screaming curses at you. As a customer service employee, you represent the company as a whole and have to actively disavow previous misbehavior on the company's part. If you can't deal with that, you're in the wrong field. Yes, customer service folks get ridiculously mistreated, but this isn't an instance of mistreatment.

              • satanlvsu2 says:

                Who said he couldn't deal with it? Who said mistreated?

                I'm talking about what jwz did, not anyone else.

                • cnoocy says:

                  You said it was rude, and I don't believe that declining to go into a story that's already been told to a representative of the company is rude.

                  • satanlvsu2 says:

                    I think the way he declined was rude, and counter productive to the cause, and you don't have to see it that way. You have the guys phone number, call him and ask him what he thinks.

            • lionsphil says:

              Er, no. The word "apparently" would indicate that jwz did not think he was being rude.

              The medium is essential your interpretation of the message, and I can't believe it's 2009 and I'm having to bring up such tired old points as "curt responses on the Internet lack the vocal and body language cues which indicate their intent", with the corollary that for some reason without those cues most people's default interpretation is hostility.

              • satanlvsu2 says:

                I think the word you're looking for there is sarcasm.

                And I can't believe you found an excuse to say "disambiguate that from exasperation." but here we are, still running our mouths.

                • lionsphil says:

                  Very well. Let's stop second-guessing what jwz meant in jwz's own journal.

                • jwz says:

                  Oh, WTF.

                  No, my reply to what's-his-name on Twitter was not rude. Nor was it intended to be rude.

                  Here's what rude looks like: satanlvsu2, will you please just shut the fuck up already?

                  • satanlvsu2 says:

                    Awww, and I was hoping for a bucket of cocks reference.

                    jwz, in the eyes of many people just watching, it was rude. I'm sure it's been a long time since you worked customer service, and those guys expect that, and you have been through a lot etc etc. But telling someone that talking to them is a waste of time (while they are reaching out to help you) even if justified and true is rude.

            • spendocrat says:

              ""apparently the peanut gallery thinks that was 'rude'" reinforces that he knew it was rude and didn't care."

              Your evaluation of that sentence says a lot more about your and your feelings about the situation than the reality of it.

        • beerfrick says:

          that Palm new guy was probably being hazed by cow-orkers

          'so, could you please contact that jwz fellow? Oh he only responds via twitter, he's like this twitter *maniac*, real nice guy though'

          • lionsphil says:

            Hahaha. "Tell him we're working on a way to self-sign and package apps for arbitrary web download and install, and the toolkit will be out for Windows XP, Vista and 7 next month."

  16. bbe says:

    "That's how it worked on PalmOS. That's how it works on desktop computers! Anything more complicated than that is just stupid."

    Agreed, and that's why I'm sticking with my old phone as long as possible and hoping some sense comes into the modern smartphone market before I have to upgrade.

    • Likewise, because I can't install apps easily on any refrigerator currently on the market, I'm sticking with my ice-chest.

      • Well, sure, it doesn't have most of the whiz-bang new features; without a new fridge, I won't be able to see what all my friends are eating right now and what they've got in their fridges, and that just breaks my heart.

        But this icebox does a good job of keeping my food cold, and I can buy pretty much anything I want to eat and just put it right in there without having to check first and make sure it's Frigidaire-approved, and I don't have to worry that Frigidaire is going to send a guy out to my house and take food I've bought out of my fridge without asking me first, if they decide it's not sufficiently Frigidaire-compatible.

        Yeah, I'm really losing a lot, sticking with this old icebox. No spiffy whizbang bullshit to drain my portable telephone's battery while working a third as well as a purpose-built device, oh no. No access to Twitter or Facebook, unbearable. Forty years from now, I'm sure my grandchildren will be asking me how I survived.

  17. figital says:

    I'll continue to build my "mobile apps" as AJAX applications which mimic native app behavior as much as possible. Eventually something like WebKit is going to have to provide access to your GPS, "accellerometer", etc. jQtouch is a good start. I've noticed lots of large mobile apps from BofA and Facebook already leveraging this (correct) approach.

    Fennec and Mozilla will solve this problem (and their "app store" works just fine).

  18. >they say it won't exist for two to three months.

    Which is the same as saying it's never going to exist.

    Six weeks is the software event horizon. Once projects have
    been thought through, designed, and have had appropriate
    resources assigned, they tend to acquire firm milestones in
    the 6-week range. Any deadline more than six weeks out is
    equivalent to saying, "we don't know what we're doing."

    They're hoping all this will blow over. Or get snowed under
    the boatload of cash that's -- real soon now -- certain to
    come piling in to their app store.

  19. version_3 says:

    Yo JWZ, I'm happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Rolex had the best clock of all time, OF ALL TIME!

    • edouardp says:

      Wow - I saw you all saying how totally bitchin it would be to say that to JWZ, like, almost two days ago on some Palm forum. Seems like one of you finally plucked up the courage to walk up to the man and say your piece. Well, comment on his livejournal. I'm sure it all takes plenty of courage either way.

      Now you can go back to your little friends and say "ha ha - I totally told him doodz!". I'm sure they'll all be terribly impressed.

      Hmmm, let's recap for a second:

      "Yo JWZ, I'm happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Rolex had the best clock of all time, OF ALL TIME!"

      It *does* make you sound a bit like a 14-year old. Which, if you're a 13-year old, is totally a compliment.