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8/31/2010
03:03 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Palm Drops WebOS 2.0 Bombshell

Palm on Tuesday announced version 2.0 of its webOS smartphone platform, with new features and a new SDK in tow.

Palm's webOS hasn't seen a significant update since early 2010. With the year two-thirds gone, and iOS4, Android 2.2, and BlackBerry 6 already being offered to the smartphone masses, Palm needs to catch up. Quickly.

Palm's catch-up sprint starts today with the announcement of webOS 2.0. Palm shared details about its revised operating system, and was sure to reveal all the new tools that developers can use to create new and exciting applications and services.

First up is Stacks. Palm has refreshed its multitasking software by automatically grouping together related app cards into stacks. This helps reduce clutter on the desktop and Palm says it will help users switch tasks faster and easier. Stacked cards may group themselves automatically, but users will be able to manage them directly, as well.

Next, Palm has renamed and reinvigorated its Universal Search function. The search tool is now named Just Type, and it lets users search or act within applications. Palm explains, "Among the many Just Type enhancements is a powerful feature called Quick Actions. Start an email, create a message, update your status, search your favorite websites—all without having to launch an app."

Perhaps one of the neatest additions to webOS 2.0 is the new "Exhibitions" tool being offered to developers. It gives developers the APIs they'll need to access and make use of the TouchStone inductive charger accessory that is available to Palm devices. Developers will be able to build functions into their apps that take advantage of the TouchStone and perform certain actions when webOS devices are charging.

Palm revamped its Synergy contact application. The new developer tools will give application writers more access to the code buried in Synergy, and allow them to build their own apps into Synergy. Palm says developers can access Synergy data and cross-pollinate it between other programs and services on the device.

Palm has built the Node.js runtime into webOS 2.0. This means developers can take advantage of JavaScript. Palm says that JavaScript support will add better background processing capabilities to the platform.

webOS 2.0 now supports more plug-ins via the revised PDK (plug-in developer kit. Palm explains, "Using plug-ins, you can more easily port app logic from other platforms while leveraging the Mojo Framework to give users a familiar interface and integrate seamlessly into webOS." It will support games and apps created with C/C++.

Last, Palm has baked more HTML5 support into webOS 2.0. The biggest features are the ability to support Web-based storage, application caching, and geo-location features on Web sites.

Palm says that select developers will have access to the new SDK starting Wednesday, September 1. The new software itself is due to reach end users later this year.

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