It’s no secret that in the web design and development world, the iPhone is king. Even Smashing Magazine, the web design blog par excellence, featured a tutorial called “How to Create Your First iPhone Application” more than a year ago. Android seems like a distant second; other platforms, all but forgotten.
Why? Because web designers and developers don’t use them! People write apps for the hardware they use, and don’t even consider the hardware they don’t. This leads to a vicious (or virtuous) cycle, where the most popular platforms get the most apps.
If you’re already doing web development though, there are a few reasons you might consider writing mobile apps for HP/Palm WebOS …
It uses technologies you’re familiar with
If you use the Komodo Edit IDE for web development, there’s a lot of support for it in the WebOS app developer community. There are also plugins for Eclipse, plus an easy-to-use web-based IDE called Ares, that actually runs the apps in your browser while you’re working on them.
You’ll be able to use them yourself
HP’s Enyo web framework is soon going to replace the older Mojo framework that WebOS apps were based on. Not only will it let you write apps that work on both WebOS phones and the HP TouchPad, but they’ll also work in a normal web browser.
You can use the cross-platform Phonegap toolkit, to write apps that run on WebOS, Android and iOS. And if you want an HP/Palm smartphone of your own, they’re selling unlocked developer phones at a $200 discount, on the HP/Palm developer website.
WebOS has a promising future
I don’t think HP bought Palm on a lark, or as an Apple TV-style “hobby.” Look closely at the announcements they made: They’re bringing Palm’s WebOS to notebook and desktop PCs as well.
Why’s that? Maybe they noticed that Apple’s been kicking their tails in terms of product quality, customer satisfaction … and profits. And maybe they realized that their Apple-esque hardware redesigns weren’t enough; their PCs needed a better user experience, too.
Whatever the reason, WebOS is the future for HP, one of the world’s biggest technology companies. So however small the platform seems now, it has nowhere to go but up.
The one big caveat to writing for WebOS is that the platform is not open-source. This doesn’t seem to bother most developers who write apps for the iPhone, but if you’re used to working on the web you’re probably also used to open-source frameworks and toolkits. You might even be skeptical of the idea of developing web apps using Enyo, because however much it matters to HP right now, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be tossed aside if they retool WebOS.
Whatever you decide to develop for next, I hope you have fun with it!