Palm: Free Apps For The Web, Free Development For Open Source, And Free Phones!

-1I’m here in San Francisco for a meeting Palm has called to give its newest employees, Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer, who both came over from Mozilla, a chance to talk a bit about the state of the webOS platform.

The two, along with Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein and some other executives spoke at length about the hardware, the platform, and the plan going forward. The message was pretty clear: Web development is the future, and openness is the way. They also made a few big announcements.

The first is that they’re allowing developers to fully distribute their apps via the web. What this means is that developers can simply submit their apps to Palm, and Palm will return to them a URL that they can then blog, tweet, do whatever they want to share it. When a person then clicks on that URL they can easily install the app, bypassing any kind of store. And while Palm is providing the URL, it is not going to be reviewing the apps in any way — a clear dig at Apple’s approval process.

Palm did note that they will still offer their App Catalog (their app store) for developers who want that too. Presumably, any app developer who wants to charge for their app will still have to go through the store. And for those developers, Palm will charge $50 for the apps to go into the Catalog.

The next announcement is that Palm is waiving the $99 yearly fee it normally charges to developers to make webOS apps if those apps are going to be open source. Galbraith and Almaer with their Mozilla backgrounds are big proponents of open source, as are many that were in the audience tonight, so this move drew cheers.

On top of that, Palm is opening up all of its analytical data to any developer who wants to access it. Again, this is different from Apple which keeps much of the analytical data for itself, and shares little.

And finally, in an effort to spur development for the platform, Palm announced that it is giving to every developer in the audience a free Pre, and its new wireless charger. On top of these, everyone will get a month free of Sprint service to use the device and tinker with developing for it. “Just hack on it,” Galbraith said.

So now Palm has had its “Oprah moment,” just as Google did a few months ago at Google I/O where they gave a G2 to everyone in the audience. That was a much bigger audience, but the gesture is still a good one from Palm. Here’s the takeaway from tonight: Galbraith and Almaer are the new sheriffs in town and they want to open things up and get you developing for webOS.