Palm WebOS Mojo SDK Sadly Impotent: Badass Games Are ImpossibleS

iPhone developer Craig Hunter confirms some of our fears about Palm's entirely web-language based Mojo SDK for WebOS—it's weak sauce, with pitiful access to the Pre's powerful hardware.

Hunter mentions two pain points in particular that are deathblow to gaming and other sophisticated applications that require significant graphical juice (granted, Palm was more or less open from the start that games wouldn't be a priority at first). Developers can't use OpenGL ES to the tap the Pre's graphics hardware. For an idea of what a big deal OpenGL access is, see our posts spanking over everything the iPhone 3GS can do with OpenGL 2.0 that the original iPhone and 3G can't. Basically, anything requiring hardware graphics acceleration is screwed if it goes through the Mojo SDK, since they can't use OpenGL at all. (There are, of course, unofficial paths.)

Update: Another iPhone dev, Stephen Stroughton Smith, points out that the reason there's no OpenGL support is because the Pre doesn't an OpenGL graphics driver, so the entire OS uses software-based drawing and animation, despite the potent graphics chip inside.

The other gimpage, which is somewhat inexplicable, is that Palm limits polling of accelerometer data to 4Hz, or 4 samples a second—Hunter says you need at least 20Hz for "smooth inputs" and 50-100Hz for apps like his own gMeter iPhone app, which measures stuff like velocity and acceleration. So it's nearly useless.

Palm actually shoots itself in the foot two ways with a weak SDK. First, it limits developers who choose to make apps for the platform. Second, it pushes away devs who might be interested, like Hunter, who points out the very real opportunity Palm has to lure programmers away from the massively overcrowded App Store with the promise of a virgin ecosystem.

And we've still got a couple of months before Palm's App Catalog really opens. Which, even granting Palm's moving along quicker than Apple did after the original iPhone, they should be jumping at every possible advantage they can get to grow their ecosystem if they want to really claw their way into a mobile space that's not just increasingly crowded, but one where Apple's shadow seems to grow a little bit longer everyday. [Craig Hunter via Groober]