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Ben is Vice President of Global Products at Walmart.com, where he works closely with his long-time friend Dion Almaer.

There’s no better way to start our careers at Palm than by getting reamed by open-source pioneer and legend Jamie Zawinski, one of the driving forces behind the release of the Mozilla source code and someone we’ve talked about in recent months in another context.

While a blog post isn’t the right avenue to talk about all of the issues that Jamie brought up, we’re following-up with him directly and will bring it to a conclusion. We obviously goofed in how we communicated with Jamie, and Dion and I take some of the blame here as our staff had been waiting for us to come on-board to get to some of these items.

We do want to take this opportunity to clarify a few things and share with you a bit about where we at Palm are with our developer program.

Our App Catalog is very much in beta right now, precisely because we want to take time to get it right prior to a full consumer launch. We have been collecting a bunch of feedback from developers and it is helping us prioritize and structure the program. In the brief three months since the launch of the Palm Pre, we have learned a great deal from the community!

We’ve seen some folks assert that Jamie’s case indicates a general pattern at Palm that we don’t really care about developers and aren’t operating in a developer-friendly manner. While we undoubtedly have some work to do here, we hope that people do notice how we treat the “homebrew” community (e.g. PreCentral) and how our current SDK agreement calls out the inspectability and reusability of our own Palm applications. (By the way, several applications from the homebrew community have already made it into our App Catalog.)

While we have yet to finalize and announce our developer program, we hope these points demonstrate our general attitude of embracing developers and empowering them. We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all. Like all great things, this will be an iterative process and we are eager and open to your participation and input to make it better for everyone.

We are sorry that Jamie feels the way he does, but we’ll fix what’s broken and are going to deliver a fantastic opportunity to developers as they in turn help create a fantastic experience to users.

We have a lot more to say on this topic, so watch this space. Dion and I are part of the developer community; we’re listening to what y’all say and we’ll speak up and participate in discussions.

And hey, look for an announcement soon that goes into more details on our developer program.

Comments

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  1. September 29, 2009

    While it’s nice to hear assurances from y’all, it would have been better still if you’d addressed Jamie’s specific issues.
    * paypal verified account
    * palm app store as sole distribution channel
    * general lack of responsiveness

    Not everyone has Jamie’s soapbox, so I’m sure there are other frustrated Pre developers.

  2. September 29, 2009

    Excuse me? You want to “strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all?”

    That’s MY device you’re talking about. It’s not YOUR device.

    Just four days ago you mocked those organizations who “view this revolution as a chance to seize power in downright Orwellian ways by constraining what we as developers can say, dictating what kinds of apps we can create, controlling how we distribute our apps, and placing all kinds of limits on what can do to our computing devices.”

    Four days ago, you knew that it’s wrong to restrict what we can do with our own devices. Today, you want to strike a balance between Orwellian control and consumer choice.

    The right “balance” is to let us install any app we want, just like you can on Android, just as Palm has always done before the Pre. That’s not a “free-for-all,” that’s just plain common sense, especially for a minority platform.

    I know it’s tough being on the wrong side of an issue. It feels like it’s “me against the world” sometimes.

    I encourage you and Dion not to get caught up in that nonsense; to use your new position to do the right thing and free this platform. If it doesn’t work, then you should quit to make your point. (Remember, the earlier you quit, the stronger the message.)

  3. September 29, 2009

    P.S. Yes, you do get credit for forbearing from crushing the homebrew community. This is not the same as freeing the platform.

  4. Alex #
    September 29, 2009

    I greatly appreciate such a response to the community and do feel the friendliness Palm has towards developers and would like to address a few of the above comments:

    While I do see the benefit and annoyances of paypal, the app store is not the sole distribution center, albeit the only official at the moment. And responsiveness is something which would be asking too much at this moment as Palm is nearing actual release of paid apps and trying to get as many through the doors as possible.

    And finally, the benefit of a open device greatly decreases for less technical users, not to mention opening security risks. I believe Palm’s attempts so far are just the beginning, slowly opening the SDK once there are the right amount of precautions in place. GPU access is one which still lacks, but one I’m sure will be improved upon (surly with great improvements in webOS as animations are moved from the CPU)

    I am extremely impressed with webOS and find all of Palm’s steps so far to be amazing, Thanks for all the hard work.

  5. September 29, 2009

    I’ve had Palm and Handspring products for over 10 years now. I happily use a Centro which I got just before the Pre came out.

    At the time I was hesitant and thought I should wait and just get the Pre. I’m glad I got something which actually works now.

    I called Sprint ahead of time and got assurances that a tethering package would be available and asked to be put on the notify list for as soon as the Pre was available. Using the Pre as modem was widely discussed pre-launch and even on official feature lists. Then it was removed and banned with no reason given. I should note that for, I think, $15/month, I can use my Centro as a CDC ACM modem on Verizon with no issues whatsoever.

    I was almost to the point of getting over that and getting a standalone modem with a daily plan so I could use the Pre. But the App Catalog thing still made me leery. Having a cloud backing store is great. Having a supported apps catalog with OTA install is great. Making it difficult to impossible to install anything else on (as someone mentioned) _my_ device that I’m paying for, via USB, Bluetooth, irDA, or whatever, is unacceptable.

    I’ll stick with my Centro until something better comes along. The Pre, shiny or not, is not the better option. Fix tethering and let me release apps for my own and others’ use (make them click through an “unsupported app” warning if you want, I don’t mind) and I’ll seriously look at the Pre. As it is, Android is looking better and better.

  6. Kirk #
    September 29, 2009

    “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all.”

    There is no balance. If I buy a device it is mine, not yours. And free-for-all is freedom and I like my liberty. This little sentence has ensured that I will never buy a Palm Pre. You just don’t get it.

  7. September 29, 2009

    Thanks for the reply; as a Real Reviewer, I’ve been watching Palm very closely as it ramps up the Pre and WebOS community.

    I would very much appreciate your thoughts on the place for homebrew (or just non-App Catalog) apps in the WebOS world, particularly given that the EULA for the WebOS Dev Kit prohibits distribution outside the App Catalog absent express written consent from Palm. Is that consent being requested? Is it being granted? Are there specific criteria under which it’s being granted or rejected?

    I would hate to see the WebOS homebrew developer community turned into a bunch of potential outlaws, never knowing if they’re acting with or without Palm’s blessing. It would be helpful if you could address this publicly. Again, thank you. {Jonathan}

  8. September 29, 2009

    When will the app store be out of beta? As a developer, if I’m going to invest in a platform I want to know I can actually distribute the apps I make.

  9. September 29, 2009

    “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all.”

    The right balance is simple — let me do what I want with my device. Anyone who protests that this is an unreasonable demand has been cowed by the prevailing market practices to the point where they are ready to hand over their rights to the carriers and manufacturers.

    Security? The answer, as Thomas Jefferson could tell you, is to inform the user of risks and let him make the decision. By all means build in a warning when I install an “unofficial” app. And if you discover a dangerous app, send me a one-time pop-up warning with a choice to delete the dangerous app (or not).

    The bottom line: communication and choices are good, but enforcing your will on my device is bad. Please, Palm, keep to the high road and treat your loyal users right.

  10. Andy Mesa #
    September 29, 2009

    Wow, and here I thought Palm reached the nadir of stupidity with the iTunes fiasco. I mean seriously? “We’re very much in beta right now”? That’s what you’re telling your paying customers? That they get the privilege to beta test your shitty software distribution system? Great! Where do I sign up?

  11. Sam K #
    September 29, 2009

    Dan Fabulich:
    You can already install any application you want on YOUR device. You just can’t distribute any application you want on Palm’s App Catalog. I’ve already installed (and removed) both of jwz’s apps.

    Kirk:
    If you want an app store with zero filter for quality or safety, you have alternatives.

  12. Kirk #
    September 29, 2009

    Sam: I thought he was talking about what apps you can install in general. It’s good if you can install 3rd party apps without going through the app store. It’s disturbing they seem to be restricting how apps can be distributed.

  13. Igor #
    September 29, 2009

    > We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all.

    There is no “right balance”. It must be free-for-all, just like previous Palm platforms were. Anything else is unacceptable. You should not make a mistake here: openness will be to your greatest advantage. Anything less will be very disappointing, and will result in many people (me included) looking away from your platform.

  14. Paul #
    September 29, 2009

    “we’re following-up with him directly and will bring it to a conclusion “

    Talk about weasel words. What you should have said is you will fix it properly and for good and given us a date by which your doing it. This aspiration to conclude this affair might mean your intention is to sue JWH. Weasel words and developers = rage

    “In the brief three months since the launch of the Palm Pre, we have learned a great deal from the community! “

    Again with the surprise that the community can be useful. With such contempt for the market and your users opinions I don’t think this is helping your case.

    “ we hope that people do notice how we treat the “homebrew” “

    JWH has posted at length about how you treat open source projects, this is not the way to answer points.

    “several applications from the homebrew community have already made it into our App Catalog “

    Did those applications have to meet the criteria that made other developers stop? The very fact you could convince a whole “several” groups to give over unnecessary details is irrelevant to how you are treating open source as a whole.

    “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all “

    uhuh. 1984 was a while ago what took you so long?!

    “We are sorry that Jamie feels the way he does “

    No you should be sorry for the way you treated him. He feels that way after the actions you took.

    “We have a lot more to say on this topic, so watch this space “
    “And hey, look for an announcement soon… “

    Announcements about announcements make developers angry. Unless its done or your listing an actual date of done its Vapour-ware.

    All in all I think you don’t understand why your getting attacked for this, and your post simply doesn’t help. Far from cooling the storm you just confirmed a developers worst fears. JWH worried me a bit today and now this response worries me a lot. My Palm pre project is retired and hopefully some poor fool will buy my phone on ebay.

  15. rdean #
    September 29, 2009

    Umm, dudes, the platform itself is already “free”. You’re confusing the device with the platform.

    I’m sure from Palm’s perspective, they’d love to create a device that’s completely free from “Orwellian control,” but which carrier would carry it — let alone subsidize it to a point that consumers can buy it in the necessary volumes?

  16. September 29, 2009

    It is extremely unfortunate that you want to pretend that the problem is just in the way you communicated.

    The problem is not how you communicated but what you communicated. In particular your policy to require developers to post applications exclusively on your app store.

    You haven’t addressed that at all.

    After all the nonsense JWZ put up with already, you can’t fix it with *more* corporate hot air.

  17. J C #
    September 29, 2009

    While it’s good to see something said, I still don’t see Jaime’s issues being addressed directly.

    Make him happy first. Once he lets us know what you did to fix things, we’ll listen.

  18. September 29, 2009

    All this furor over a friggin’ tip calculator! “Pioneer and legend” perhaps. Insufferable narcissist, definitely.

    It’s commendable that you’re openly addressing said “legend’s” juvenile whining. Then again, his open-source digitally-distributed temper-tantrum didn’t leave you much choice.

    Pioneer-legend dude should apologize for wasting your time (and ours) crying about – I can’t stop laughing – a tip calculator!

  19. September 29, 2009

    To be honest up front, it’s unlikely I’d buy a PalmPre because where I live the Sprint service sucks, and even the smartest of phones if pretty stupid if can’t connect to a network.

    But – this response (or non-response) to Jamie’s problems is a strong second reason to avoid buying or developing for the Pre.

    A good apology has three parts: admission/ownership, remorse/empathy, and how you will or have made it right.

    Saying you “goofed” with Jamie and that you take *some* of the blame fails miserably against the first two parts. In what happened with Jamie, you (by which I mean Palm, not necessarily you personally) EPIC FAIL’D (to use the parlance of our times). You did NOT “goof.”

    And if you are only taking some of the blame, is there someone else at Palm who has the guts to fully own up to what happened here?

    In terms of making it right, this post would carry a lot more credibility if the final paragraph read “And I’m happy to share with you that Jamie’s apps are now available in the store.”

    Plus, allow me to echo Dan Moore’s comments:

    “It would have been better still if you’d addressed Jamie’s specific issues.
    * paypal verified account
    * palm app store as sole distribution channel
    * general lack of responsiveness”

    Your side-bio reads “He is involved in the Mozilla community and supports their efforts to keep the internet open.” The question is are you and Palm committed to keeping the Pre platform open? This non-response to Jamie’s concerns makes me think your answer is “no.”

  20. September 29, 2009

    Seriously people – a software catalog for the masses must be filtered. Otherwise, say hello to malware and adware and crapware and otherwise unpleasant stuff. The initial experience with a software install must be held to a high standard, and that is the genius of app stores.

    Palm’s app catalog is in its infancy, and they’re being very safe about which apps get approved, and they’re probably fine-tuning their approval process in the meantime.

    And the simple truth of the matter is, you can go homebrew or you can go app catalog. It doesn’t make sense to go both.

  21. sid #
    September 29, 2009

    You guys don’t get it; Do you know why your home grown OS failed, and you had to replace it with Linux on Pre? Because closed is doomed to fail in longterm.

    Security issues? Guess what is the most secure OS platform out there? Its not Windows or Mac OS X.

  22. John #
    September 29, 2009

    It’s great that you haven’t done anything to stop homebrew (unlike Apple) and once people start seeing this and all the cool stuff you can do without “jailbreaking” or possibly bricking your device by doing so, the Pre will be way ahead of the iPhone.

    However, I would love to see some sort of repository system which shouldn’t be too hard since you made the right choice in using linux, where people or only developers if you want to make it harder for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing can add repositories to the catalog. You could also just give a warning that software from outside the official Palm catalog has not been tested and may be unsafe to run. This would be great and really help bring better competition and apps to the Pre platform.

  23. September 29, 2009

    I’ve got to say that I agree with Dan Fabulich here. When you think about this type of problem, if the phrase “locking down our device” is a better fit than “helping our users make informed decisions” then I know that it won’t match my definition of an open platform, and there is no chance that I’ll come back to Palm even after my decade plus history using their previous devices.

  24. Kurt Harriger #
    September 29, 2009

    I understand and largely agree with the desire for palm to filter poor quality, malicious, inappropriate and/or illeagal content from it’s app store. Providing that, unlike Apple, apps can be easily installed through other means.
    I do not understand is why the source and binaries cannot be posted on his website. It should be possible to download and install an application directly from vendors website.
    Additionally, one should be able to add additional third party catalogs to app store (e.g. /etc/apt/sources.list) so users can browse, download, and check for updates for in the same interface one uses to browse and download officially reviewed apps.

  25. September 29, 2009

    This issue is peanuts compared to some of the real shortcomings in the SDK. One (in particular) that is killing me right now is that there is no real protection for source code in webOS apps (obfuscation doesn’t count, since it’s easily defeated by anyone with debugger skills). How am I supposed to release proprietary or competition senstive source code in my commercial apps when it’s ripe for the taking?

    I could name several other show stopper issues right now, but the point is that getting diplomatic about some whiner’s tip calculator is a distraction from real, serious issues in the SDK.

  26. Eee #
    September 29, 2009

    This entire thing is being blown far out of proportion. The original issue was brought up because of a process “glitch” with Palm. Jamie seems to have been caught in some changing times on the corporate side (ie. these guys coming on board in the last couple of weeks) and set processes being communicated to the customer suffered as a result. The attempt by palm to contact Jamie and attempt to hash things out should be looked at as good-faith, not evil. I think we all need to let this sit for a couple days at least and see where Palm and Jamie end up. Jumping all over a poor guy’s words isn’t really fair, considering you have never seen a note from an Apple rep saying they are aware of sideloading applications and aren’t doing anything about it.

    As far as locked devices, in the end, Palm is a supplier to the cellphone companies. The only way for us to use these devices is for carriers to allow them on their networks. As much as we would like to think that these devices should be all-ours once we have purchased them, Palm still needs to satisfy the needs of their client, Sprint. Sprint undoubtedly instructed Palm that every application would need to be reviewed and vetted to make sure that it did not reflect poorly on the product. Negative light for the Pre spawns negative light for Sprint (who, we all know, doesn’t need any more.) I think that is where the line of a “balance” between open and closed was coming from.

    Also, with the reference that the App Catalog be the only source of distribution, I think through ignoring all inquiries, Palm has answered our question. I have a job where I don’t have a lot of vacation time. My boss and I were talking about a day I needed to take off but didn’t have anything other than sick time. He asked me if I felt a cold coming on. After a second of thought it sunk in. He couldn’t tell me, for whatever legal reasons, that I could take a sick day, but if I did, I wasn’t going to get in trouble. Draw a line of parallel over to Palm and notice that whenever directly asked about homebrew and other alternative distribution of apps, they have only said, we are aware of Homebrew and have not shut it down. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just aren’t allowed to legally support it based on some small legal paragraph in some agreement. If they haven’t taken steps by 1.2 to close the loop, they aren’t going to, you can write that in stone.

  27. JenP #
    September 29, 2009

    I personally appreciate Palm’s quick responses and how hard they are trying to support new development. It’s a new phone, a new OS, there are going to be speed bumps. I’m not saying don’t voice your complaints. I’m sure Palm welcomes them. Just keep it civilized. No one’s purposely trying to upset or alienate anyone.

  28. ManicDee #
    September 29, 2009

    Dear “It’s My Device” people:

    It’s not your device. It’s a terminal that connects to a large area wireless network. It either behaves according to the rules of the network or it gets disconnected. The people who run these large networks won’t distinguish between “JWZ’s Prē” versus “All Prē devices”.

    Just because you handed over some money doesn’t mean the device is actually yours to do with as you please: when you bought your house, you didn’t get control over the airspace above it – that belongs to air traffic control (and thus the Government, which is everyone). When you bought your car, you didn’t get the right to do with it as you please – there are speed limits, parking restrictions, noise restrictions, regulations on emissions, maintenance standards, safety standards, etc. to comply with.

    The only way to allow application free-for-all on the Prē platform would be to disconnect all Palm Prēs from the cell networks. Then and only then would they truly be your devices to do with as you please. While you’re sharing resources with other people who aren’t as smart and paranoid as you are, you have to accept that you have to conform to the same rules as the rest of the sheeple.

    At some point in time, Palm should be able to allow individuals to obtain a developer/homebrew version of the OS which gives you more freedoms, while still making it difficult for malware developers to con dumber, more trusting people into loading up malware. Palm has to convince the mobile carriers that it has control over the platform in order for the carriers to allow that device onto the network.

    In the meantime please, check your sense of entitlement at the door.

  29. Ben Garreros #
    September 29, 2009

    Wow. Just … wow.

    Looks like you’ve got about 12 hours (possibly less) to restore confidence in your developer base. What is it about Jamie’s concerns that is so hard to rectify (or even promise to rectify) right now?

    I too would love to see Palm get up, but it looks like my trusty crusty Tungsten is still a better choice while I wait for a new Android phone to hit my shores. I’ll be focussing my app development there now too.

  30. Ben Galbraith #
    September 29, 2009

    Hey all, thanks for the comments, even the bit about “weasel words”! I love it.

    While I don’t have the “We’ve Fixed Jamie’s Issues and Released His Apps!” answer yet and that has made this blog post feel unsatisfying to some, my motivation in posting before I had the conclusion to this issue was to make it clear that we heard Jamie and are working on the issues he’s raised. Our developer program is in beta and we genuinely appreciate that folks are willing to hang with us while we get the kinks sorted out.

    While some may feel I shouldn’t have posted any response at all, I hope others appreciate some communication rather than none.

    Thank you, thank you so much to all of you who have blogged, commented, tweeted, or emailed on this issue. It’s great to hear what you think and it really helps us prioritize our agenda here. Keep it coming. Dion and I will keep engaging.

  31. Daniel Glazman #
    September 29, 2009

    “We obviously goofed in how we communicated with Jamie”. No. Palm goofed in how it communicated with most developers.
    You have in front of you the example of what should NOT be redone : the Apple AppStore and its crazy constraints, developers complaining, painful and obscure process, huge cost for distributing free apps and so on. It’s up to Palm to select another way.

  32. Mick #
    September 29, 2009

    Ben,

    It sounds like you need to think about what to write in response to these things BEFORE you ‘speak to legal’.

    I’m sure it wasnt your intention, but I found that your post actually made me feel worse of (and for) Palm. As people have pointed out, either you can change the things that are wrong which Jamie pointed out…. Or you can’t.

    Are you waiting for someone more important (but clueless) in the Palm hierarchy to make the decision for you?

    BTW: I was on your side. I’m suprisingly sad when I notice all these symptoms that Palm is not learning, not on the right side of issues like Jamie’s, and not going to survive.

  33. September 29, 2009

    The Apple App Store is the Walmart of handheld app stores where strong alliances, strictly controlled product offerings, and an ability to deliver mass appeal wipes mom and pop, family run five-and-dime stores off the proverbial map. If Palm wants to strive to be the all-American Swap Meet of app stores, competing with garage sales and Goodwill, they would serve themselves well to listen to the community of developers that have represented themselves in this discussion forum.

    Personally, I hope they tell all of you (in kinder words) to go develop and find your own distribution channels if you don’t like their terms. Apple doesn’t even offer you that…

  34. rdza #
    September 29, 2009

    Another vote for Free-for-All.
    Map the current private javascript namespaces to their html5 counterparts (where they exist) and create new html5 spec submissions and implementations for where they don’t (camera, accelerometer, magnetometer, etc).
    A huge jumpstart would be to fork the existing phonegap js shim codebase.
    The only platform that will work is the open web, html5-style, but then we shouldn’t have to tell _you_ that.
    The App(le) Store business model is fundamentally corrupt. Palm sells _hardware_.

  35. kater #
    September 30, 2009

    Just make everything free, let the users choose,
    and I’ll be happy to say goodbye to the f*****g iphone dev program

  36. Quarrelsome #
    September 30, 2009

    You forgot to placate the open source crowd. They’ll continue to be as erratic as a live haddock in a wineglass until you explicitly answer how open source works on Pre. From Jamie’s post it looks like you _must_ pay to release free software.

    Something isn’t quite right there……

  37. September 30, 2009

    What we are really waiting for is decent OpenGL access in the SDK. Has anything changed on this yet?

    Last version we took a look at didn’t seem to have any OpenGL access at all…. Apologies if we’re out of dat on that, but it seemed such a glaring omission in the first SDK that we actually have not kept abreast of things since then..

  38. September 30, 2009

    “Homebrew”? Palm’s whole system stands on the shoulders of “homebrew”.

  39. Scott Chapman #
    September 30, 2009

    The EULA point is a good one. I have not released on precentral because of that, but it appears Palm is actively recruiting apps from there. Meanwhile I haven’t heard anything about my beta program submission in the last couple of weeks. If a developer that follows the rules is disadvantaged, then the rules need to be changed!

  40. September 30, 2009

    Ben:

    You have the attention of the developer community at the moment, and THIS is your response? Why don’t you take a STRONGER response and demonstrate that you REALLY INTEND to produce something dramatically different from Apple’s AppStore. Give us a responses that makes news, and shows you are serious. For instance, you could try to hire JWZ to take an advisory role in management of Palm’s App Catalog policy. Or you could publicly commit to allowing ANY app into Palm’s App Catalog, using some form of rating (rather than outright exclusion) to mark those that are spam, spyware, or otherwise harmful.

    Take SERIOUS action: you only have about 1 more shot at the news cycle. Show us that you mean to be different!

  41. September 30, 2009

    Do the right thing!
    Work for the users, Not for the corporations!

    Don’t, please be evil.

  42. alextingle #
    September 30, 2009

    This whole situation, and _especially_ your response here, makes me very wary about purchasing a Palm, or getting involved in development for it.

  43. melvin hunter #
    September 30, 2009

    I’m having a hard time understand the issue you guys have with the openness of this platform. The large majority of the applications I have on my phone are unsupported apps downloaded OTA through Preware, and Palm has done nothing to stop this from happening. That sounds pretty open to me.

    they have every right to protect there less technical (majority) customers from potentially harmful software or unreliable software that uses undocumented API’s by screening what goes into the app store. That’s the only pay to protect their brand. No one wants to be know as the guys with the viruses and the programs that only work for 3 weeks. But there are PLENTY of distribution methods.

  44. September 30, 2009

    I’ve had a Palm since the IIIse – and have been pleased with the Palm OS products as the years went on. I’ve been able to install whatever I want, pay developers directly, etc.

    But I will admit – I’ve crashed my Palm Tungsten and Treo 680 with *hit software more times than I care to recall. I have no doubt that this is why Palm wants a vetted App Catalog for the WebOS platform.

    That said…

    I have a good friend who also has a Pre and who, like me, had a Treo beforehand and liked being able to grab a PRC (free OR paid) from anywhere and install it. So – the good friend I am, I installed WebOS Quick Install, threw on fileCoaster, and handed her phone back. I explained to her that anything you get from fileCoaster could crash her phone, that she could possibly lose data, and she said “OK”. In a world where Windows seems to crap out on a weekly if not daily basis, she’s handled it well. She’s had her phone for 45 days and so far no problems I had to go fix.

    Now, not everyone has a friend like me – and perhaps some of the “early adopters” who are whining that the App Catalog isn’t open don’t know how to install Quick Install and fileCoaster/PreWare. I get that. And I also get that some developers just want people to be able to get their software without having to go through the Paypal/App Catalog process.

    It seems a simple solution to me: make the VERY young Quick Install a “grown up” app that anyone can install and use (remember, you had to install Palm Desktop and configure HotSync to install PRCs on most Palm OS devices). Sure, make people click on a “warning, these applications have not been tested by Palm Inc. or the carrier”. Maybe to ameliorate Sprint’s fears that people will come into the store to fix the problem – have the WebOS detect which app crashed and direct the user to the vendor’s website, explaining that Sprint and Palm did not distribute the application.

    I’m glad Ben et. al. are working to address Jamie’s problem, and I get that some people are never going to be satisfied unless WebOS is open and unrestricted, but let’s face it, this OS was designed by a company who hires employees who are paid to write code and test software. This isn’t some grassroots phone OS that has blossomed into a hot new thing.

  45. Gary #
    September 30, 2009

    actions speak louder than words …

  46. September 30, 2009

    You had ample opportunity to solve that problem – first of all by not coming up with such crazy restrictions in the first place. I had a very favorable opinion of Palm thus far, congratulations, you have managed to ruin it in a heartbeat! Asking authors for money for free apps? Limiting them to your own shop? If I want Apple I can already buy an iPhone! I DO NOT want another such closed platform.

    By the way, your answers stink. This is some very tough/rough statement from my side, but coming up with such lame excuses as pointing out the Beta-Status… that’s okay for TECHNICAL problems, but not for such basic policy issues! I hate it when people take me for a fool.

  47. David #
    September 30, 2009

    @Scottitude: This has nothing to do with the actual software. As jwz explained:

    Did I give you the impression that I think these tiny, free apps that I wrote in a couple of days are important?I’m sure that if they had been important, profitable apps, I’d have been fellated to within an inch of my life.Please try to comprehend the actual point I was making about the importance of an independent, self-sustaining software ecosystem, one which can nurture an incredibly wide variety of apps, even the ones that are not strategically important to this quarter’s myopic business trajectory of the platform’s manufacturer. About the importance of making it easy for developers to connect with users, regardless of whether the owner of the platform’s judgement says that those apps are worthy of obtaining users or not. Let the users decide that.Also, yes, there are already several tip calculators in the app catalog. And tip calculators are easy and stupid. I only wrote mine because there wasn’t one already (and it was an easy way to learn the platform). So guess what? Mine was the first. Why isn’t it included? I honestly don’t know. Nobody has told me.

  48. MYX #
    September 30, 2009

    Hi. Yes thank you for being somewhat public and visiting with the common folk.
    After reading through this page, I hope above all realize the fact that all of these posts happened in a very short amount of time. Hopefully this indicates to you that you (Palm) are being watched VERY closely.
    It is also clear that many of these people voicing these opinions are developers. They understand the R&D process. They understand the stress of getting the bugs out and chasing down problematic monsters. More to the point, people who understand where you are right now. Talk to us on the level. It will get you a lot further.

    Locking down the phone… Hmmm. The reason I have always loved my palm is the fact that it was NOT locked down and I could make it mine. If you lock it, you will kill the spirit that always made the Palm so attractive.

    I have been using Palm devices since the IIIx. I am currently on a Treo 700p. I have been watching the progress of the Pre since it was revealed. I have been waiting for nearly a year beyond my 2 year phone allowance in hopes that Verizon will carry it(rumors). I want to stay on a Palm. The reason… I have always been able to make the device… Mine. I have always loved that so many people from all walks of life wrote for the Palm platform. No matter what your hobby, you could most likely find a program for it. Some programs worked and some didn’t. For this reason, I have always kept a backup of my Treo. I knew, that there was some risk in trying new software, but it was MY choice.

    App store…
    I like that I can visit a forum that is an outside unbiased platform and see peoples thoughts about good titles. Then visit person X’s website and look around. There is more there than just a store front. If I design a site based around my software, I will flavor it with my personality. I will explain the item the way I want it explained. And further, I can offer support or updates for folks who have downloaded/purchased my wares. My hunch is that we will probably see a picture of an app, a small description of the app and a big ol’ purchase this button somewhere near by. This is not the same experience, and hardly synergetic.

    Since you have seen preCentral you know that developers like to visit with their users, and users like to visit with the developers. We get great feedback that ultimately makes their products better. Even more, it allows a smoother ability for beta testing than having to go through some comity each time a new test version is released.

    If I want to place an update because a bug is found (God forbid), I can simply upload the new version to my site. My hunch is that with the App store idea, there will be many more steps between compiling and distribution.

    Again, I appreciate your willingness to talk to us, but… talk to us.
    Thanks

  49. September 30, 2009

    I am the author of a few homebrew apps, to include PreLoad, which helps distribute Homebrew apps. Where is this “balance” supposed to fall? It’s already hard enough trying to get WebOS Code to work when the documentation and examples are slim, if even existant. And yes, I have been to palms developer site. I have a few apps I have been preparing for the app store, but I have some I like keeping in the homebrew community. Hopefully you’ll have the submission process sorted out before I’m ready. It has been an uphill struggle to get much done with this OS as it is.

  50. Dmitriy Likhten #
    September 30, 2009

    How about you replace the non-appologies with actual ones if you mean them, otherwise remove them alltogether. “We are sorry that Jamie feels the way he does”

    This just makes me lose confidence in the company. However I am waiting to see what Palm will do, not appology-wise but policy-wise about addressing these issues.

  51. September 30, 2009

    @ManicDee

    Actually, in the United States at least, the FCC and court systems have historically held up the concept of “any lawful device” and the right of the owner/operator to make modifications as long as they do not “cause harm to the system”. If it weren’t for the landmark cases linked below, it is actually quite likely we wouldn’t have a “web” at all, let alone an “open web” because most of the early consumer computers connected to the telephone network via acoustic couplers.

    If people continue to be willing to give away these rights that were protected from corporate interference, then we will likely end up reversing these decisions and we’ll likely never realize the innovations and new technologies that will be stifled because of it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hush-A-Phone_v._United_States
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carterfone

  52. sender #
    September 30, 2009

    It seems to me a lot of you are just using this blog entry to push the Free movement in a generic way. Albeit I kindly respect and like it, I dont see the point in here.

    If i wanted I could already install those two applications in my pre. So being your phone you can do whathver you want with it, root it, install anything, whatever.

    But there is something more that didnt exist in Palm OS era, and is the App Catalog, as a way of dristributing applications for Web OS. And in this official channel of distribution is perfectly normal you must follow some rules.

    Albeit everything is able to be improved, these rules are not at all, as bad as you want to see them, not compared to other stores.

  53. September 30, 2009

    @sender

    Point well made. I want to see an App Catalog, I very much want to see it help users make informed choices about what they install to keep them and the network safe. That is the most important thing to keep in focus here.

  54. September 30, 2009

    @sender: “And in this official channel of distribution is perfectly normal you must follow some rules.”

    And it is perfectly normal for people to have their own opinion about those rules. I don’t see YOUR point, or what do you exists the comment function of this blog exists for? Only to voice agreement? You are a strange person.

    Besides, I don’t like being put in a religious-open-source-zealot corner. I could not care less about “Open Source” (as such) even though I’ve been “doing” open source, esp. Linux, since 1995 and once worked for a Linux company – which to me never was more than a regular place to work, however.

    I DO care about economics in the larger sense (not limited to mathematical models) and common sense in human-human interactions. The tighter and tighter controls that some firms try to establish are NOT common sense, they are the result of frightened selfish short-term thinking.

    I DO care when the one technically good alternative to the iPhone turns out to be owned by a company that behaves just the same as Apple.

    Important: I would not complain at all if all of this would make any (economic) sense for Palm – what irritates me so much is that it doesn’t!!! They have to compete with the iPhone and they cannot do this by copying everything. They have to do SOMETHING different, and the good will of the developers IS important.

    Excuse my CAPITALS, but I also speak that way (without shouting, just emphasizing a word here and there, okay?).

  55. dino- #
    September 30, 2009

    @sender “…to keep them and the network safe.”

    I’m tired of hearing this bogus claim about keeping the network safe.

    Let’s imagine you bought from your wirelss provider a pc-card, USB adapter or Novatel MiFi device to put your laptop on the wireless phone network from wherever you are.

    Does Sprint or AT&T make sure that your Windows, Mac or Linux machine is safe for the phone network? No, of course they can’t possibly.

    Claims that software running on these tiny phone-sized computers has to be controlled for network safety: sounds like bullshit to me.

  56. JayeRandom #
    September 30, 2009

    Anti-freedom people have posted a number of infuriating anti-freedom remarks on here, but I think I take the most exception with ManicDee.

    By ManicDee’s line of reasoning, any desktop computer that connects to the Internet should only run “approved” software. This is a stupid idea, and wrong.

    ManicDee has other wrong, stupid ideas littering his post, but this is not the time and place to get into them.

  57. Eric #
    September 30, 2009

    For people who don’t seem to know the difference between Orwellian control and reasonable control, Palm has every right to constrain some things from happening on the Pre, just like the local constabulary has the right to stop you from driving the wrong way on the highway so you don’t kill people, there are certain limitations Palm has a right – and obligation – to impose on the Pre.

  58. Amy #
    September 30, 2009

    Many current and future Pre users are like me… technically challenged. I like knowing that Apps available through an App Catalog are tested and hopefully deemed as safe to both my phone and my personal information.

    The ‘daring’ side of me (remember… I am challenged, so little techie leaps scare and excite me) looks at the HomeBrew catalog daily and loves that at any time I can choose to install one at will.

    I know I do not have a loud or powerful voice on this blog, but I think I am and represent a common voice of the everyday consumer..

  59. September 30, 2009

    @Amy – I have a hard time trying to come up with a way to say this calmly, but have you actually READ any of that stuff this discussion is about???

    There is nothing technical at all, it is all political! For example, they (Palm) want an author to pay money for applications provided for free. Another example, they want to forbid an author to distribute an application in ANY other way, and/or on any other platform.

    Now you may or may not agree with these (and all that most people here do is say that they don’t, which is their good right – and it is what the comment section is for), but it sure doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with the absurd and strange concerns raised by you or @Eric, the point he’s trying to make in his posting I cannot understand at all. Sure Palm has rights, but I as an author have rights too.

    And once more: The entire discussion is NOT about any technical or security issues. It is about how Palm deals with developers. The relationship between customers and Palm, or technical (reliability, security, etc.) issues is an entirely different matter. If you are satisfied with what they do from a customer’s point of view that’s great, but why do you have to raise your voice against developer’s concerns about THEIR relationship with Palm, especially if you clearly have not read any of the material discussed here?

  60. September 30, 2009

    Apple requires you to pay a yearly membership fee to develop apps for their store, along with an apple computer to develop on.

    Microsoft requires you to pay a yearly membership fee to develop games for XBLA, along with a Live Gold Membership.

    So why is it so evil that Palm is requiring a yearly membership fee to develop apps that will be distributed by their servers using their technology?

    Yes, programs can and should be free. There should be a system in place to easily get and install free systems. But the fact of the matter is that Palm spends money on their catalog and they spend money on their servers, and standard practice for that is to recoup costs by charging some amount of money. It’s neither ludicrous nor totalitarian to expect that people who wish to participate in a costly game front some of that cost.

    Now, requiring PayPal Verified or whatever? That’s just strange and weird, and a little suspicious. But I think all you “NOBODY SHOULD PAY ANY MONEY” people should realize that someone IS paying money — the corporation. Things like tutorials and developer conferences and approval processes and review processes and running servers and retaining human beings to do all this and to interact with customers costs money. if you want to use the goodwill and effort that people like Ben are putting into it without putting up a little bit of cash on your own, that makes you a leech.

    There are ways to do it free. You can develop for free and distribute for free, and I would love to see an alternate to the app catalog that REMAINS free. I do think this overpoliticization is nuts, and I would like to point out to all the people saying “they’re anti open source!” are latching onto the wrong sentence. I saw quoted several times “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all,” but everyone seems to forget what Ben says two sentences earlier:

    “By the way, several applications from the homebrew community have already made it into our App Catalog.”

  61. September 30, 2009

    @zach: I have not read a SINGLE comment that said everything should be free (as in “costs nothing”). In fact, I am myself every much against it.

    However, and that was MY point, it does not make economic sense for Palm to do this kind of stuff. What makes me mad is that it is STUPID of them to raise such a controversy. This is just a small part of even the currently discussed issue, but since you raised it: They should allow makers of free software to post the software for free – because it makes economic sense for them! They are FAR FAR FAR behind Apple when it comes to software, and this is one way to catch up. If they screw up, there’s a very good mobile platform less on the market. So, personally, I am mad at them because I care about them!

    Again a commentor only picked one thing of the many valid issues originally raised by JWZ. Here is the full text for comparison again, because so few seem to have bothered to read it: http://jwz.livejournal.com/1096401.html

  62. Eddie #
    September 30, 2009

    @Michael Hasenstein: You’re confusing “free as in free beer” with “Free as in free speech.” It’s not evil that Palm requires an annual fee to distribute applications, even free applications, via their store. (An annual fee that is currently $5 according to some sources.) It may be stupid or counterproductive or silly, but it’s not evil.

    Evil would be trying to be the *only* legitimate source to install Palm WebOS applications, and preventing (actively via lawsuits and “cease and desist” or passively via licensing) free distribution of source and applications for those who desire their applications to be free in this manner. Doing so would also be strongly counter-productive and stupid, but also evil. That’s the part that worries me, that the license even for the WebOS 1.2 SDK still makes it look like you can only distribute WebOS applications via the Palm Store, and no other means.

    I love the concept of the Palm WebOS store. But I find worrisome the concept that the WebOS Store is the *only* legitimate distribution channel for WebOS applications. It’s OK with me if other installation methods are legally and contractually and physically allowed, but the Palm store is the preferred one. But making the Palm store the only legitimate one will drive developers away.

    There was no need to be so hostile to Amy or Eric. Their posts were not unreasonable, even though you didn’t see their points.

  63. Ken #
    September 30, 2009

    “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all.”

    I’m trying to make sense of this sentence. “Locking down our device” = “kind of easy for Palm, huge pain for developers”, while “free-for-all” = “even easier for Palm, easy for developers”. Finding a middle ground seems like it’s going to be a lot harder for Palm than either of these, and only medium-awful for developers.

    All of your comments seem to indicate that you think it’s *possible* to make an exclusive “App Store” that isn’t completely broken for developers, which is rather surprising. You certainly haven’t shown it’s possible — not even Apple has managed that yet.

    Isn’t “a free-for-all” what Palm had before, with huge success? Isn’t that what Windows and Mac software has had for decades, and web pages have had for years? Is there any case where a regulated “App Store” is in any way better than just being able to download a file and install/run it? Because I can’t think of any, and through all of the verbiage here it doesn’t sound like you’re even considering that.

    Now, I can imagine having an App Store *in addition* to being able to download and install things myself. Sure, knock yourselves out. But it should be like Apple’s list of Mac software on apple.com — a handy directory, no more. If I buy a device from Palm, and I want to run software on it that my friend wrote, then it should take about 2 clicks to run it, and nobody at Palm should have any say in the matter. Anything else is pure fail.

    I want Palm to do well here. The trick is not just to copy the things the iPhone does well, but to also *ignore the things it sucks at*, and the App Store is at the top of the latter list. Even if you had nothing more than a weak iPhone clone, if it didn’t have an App Store, it would be a big success.

  64. Joeri #
    October 1, 2009

    “Locking down our device” = “safe for naive users, a pain for developers”, “free-for-all” = “not safe for naive users, easy for developers”.

    If you don’t use some sort of content gateway to restrict what runs on the device, you’re going to need cell phone antivirus solutions. Free-for-all is the situation on the desktop PC, and it most definitely is not the right choice for mobile devices.

  65. Kirk #
    October 1, 2009

    What if Palm had the AppStore for safe/tested/verifed apps for Joe User, and a separate ‘store’ for free developer apps such as Jamie’s, where is it ‘downloader takes all risks’? Alternatively, just have a filter for the difference? Yet another approach would be a downloader rating system, such as any number of other download sites have, such as FireFox add-ons or SourceForge?

  66. October 1, 2009

    “We’re trying to strike the right balance between locking down our device and making it a free-for-all.”

    Once it’s my phone, I demand to be able to install whatever software I want on it. That’s how it has been with every other phone and PDA I’ve bought. Furthermore, the locking down is exactly why I haven’t bought an iPhone.

    I don’t care what restrictions you put on the app store. That’s your store, do what you like with it. However, I absolutely demand that I be able to download whatever programs I like from wherever I like, or write my own, and install them on my phone.

    If you’re not going to allow that, I’ll simply eliminate Palm from consideration next time I’m due for a phone upgrade.

  67. Woody Thrower #
    October 2, 2009

    I assume section 4.3 of the agreement, “Applications Can Only Be Distributed Through the Palm Application Catalog” is primarily intended to keep Palm in the revenue loop. If that is the case, would it be reasonable to exclude free applications from that requirement?

    As far as the $99 fee to distribute even a free application, I see valid reasons for Palm to do that, but I wonder if it is short-sighted.

    Free applications attract customers. There is an up-front cost to Palm in validating free applications and making them available, but software is the main attraction for any computing platform.

    Palm is playing catch-up with Apple. Having a lower barrier than Apple for free software could be an important differentiator. I suspect it would also reverse much of the negativity generated by the fiasco with jwz.

  68. 1000aire #
    October 2, 2009

    Wow. This is disconcerting!

    I thought since WebOS used open source software it had to be left open. Am i wrong?

  69. sam #
    October 2, 2009

    The “right balance” between locking down your device and a “free-for-all” is a “free-for-all.” Remember Palm OS? Remember Windows Mobile? Remember every single operating system in the history of mankind EXCEPT for iPhone OS? Following in Apple’s footsteps here is a mistake. Besides, you don’t get to act like a bully until you’re on top anyway, and you guys aren’t on top … yet?

    Allow the installation of .ipk files from the browser (with a sane “this is unverified software – proceed at your own risk” message.) Once you’ve done that, you have my loyalty for life.

    I suspect your shareholders are really behind this desire to lock down WebOS – I have to believe Palm knows better. I just hope someone there is willing to educate the suits.

    “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems slip through your fingers.”

  70. sam #
    October 2, 2009

    It’s amazing how many people in this thread seem to misunderstand the issue. I haven’t read one good argument in favor of Palm’s Pre “lock-down” (whatever form that takes).

    A few facts:

    1. Palm is not locking down their device to satisfy Sprint. Look at all the other devices (Windows Mobile, Palm OS, etc.) on Sprint’s network that are completely 100% open. That carriers even care was a lie perpetuated by Apple as an excuse to push their app store on us. They claimed that if you opened the device to any app then someone could take down the cell network. Such an idea is so laughable as to not even deserve a response except to say that if it were true then carriers have bigger problems than cell phone software. The real reason for lock down is forcing apps through the app store so you can take a cut off the top. Look to the investors for this boneheaded move.

    2. Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be a strictly controlled app store. An app store is great! Palm is wise to include it and only choose to distribute the applications they see fit. What is NOT good is making that the sole means of distribution. Developers should not be at the mercy of the manufacturer on any device.

    3. “Homebrew” is not a legitimate alternative to application distribution. There are too many hurdles for too many potential users. People should be able to install software by clicking on an .ipk link in the web browser. A security warning would be wise to include. END OF STORY.

    4. Being new is not an excuse for bad policies. While I agree that Palm has worked fast on the Pre, the average user doesn’t care. They want to know how their device works right now. After all, they paid for it.

    5. If we wouldn’t stand for such shenanigans on our desktop computers, we shouldn’t stand for them on our mobile devices either. My prediction is that if the device manufacturers don’t fix this, the courts will at some point. If Microsoft can’t tell you which browser to use, Apple/Palm/etc. can’t either.

    6. The argument that opening your platform will inevitably lead to massive amount of malware and spam is fallacious. Every platform on earth is open (minus the newer mobile ones), but not all are infected with malware. Reasonable security practices combined with user common sense solves most of these problems.

    It seems very clear from reading the comments here what the users want. The question is does Palm have the cajones to do it? They don’t want to lose the potential revenue from the app catalog, but they should also be thinking about the potential loss of customers. I, for one, can’t stick around on a closed platform, and many other users have echoed the same thing.

    Palm: If you open your device, most developers will STILL choose to go through the app catalog. Everyone wins.

  71. David #
    October 2, 2009

    @Woody: Even just preventing an app from being sold elsewhere could be problematic for anything under a copyleft license. The GPL, for instance, grants the user permission to use the software provided that certain freedoms are passed on to other users—including the freedom to sell the software. Palm’s restrictions limit that ability and, thus, make contributing anything GPL’d problematic (I think).

  72. Mister Pointer Outer #
    October 3, 2009

    It’s almost a week later and JWZ’s apps are still not available from the app store. Good work.

  73. October 6, 2009

    Ben:

    Further up in this comment thread (http://benzilla.galbraiths.org/2009/09/29/thoughts-on-palm-and-jamie-zawinski/#comment-3886) I encouraged Palm to publicly take a stance that they would allow any application to be published onto the Palm platform. Yesterday, you made public announcements which did exactly that.

    Thank you. I AM paying attention. This DOES make a difference.

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