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Palm has launched its developer program for the as-yet-unreleased Pre device as a free download, but developers will have to justify their existence if they want a fast track to WebOS.

The Mojo SDK - the development platform for Palm's WebOS - is to be dribbled out to developers who can justify their case, allowing them to create ECMAScript applications to be sold through Palm's application store once the Pre launches, though support for the old-guard comes in the form of an unexpected PalmOS emulator.

Developers will get access to Mojo on the basis of how much Palm likes them, and if the application fits in with the capabilities that Palm has working. Palm wants to know if the application will make use of its ECMAScript extensions for Calendar, Contacts, Location information and/or notifications, as well as the plan on for the app and the platform on which development will take place.

It's not easy to create application ideas, and business models to support them, when the schedule and price of the Pre are still both unknown factors. Palm has said that development is on schedule, and that money is in place to fund the launch, things that are hard to dispute, knowing what that schedule is. Palm also seems to have missed the idea that some developers might be interested in creating more than one application, or just be interested in taking a look at the SDK, though the urgency to get apps onto the Pre makes the company's priority system somewhat understandable.

More significant in that regard is the news that the Pre will ship with a PalmOS emulator, supplied by Motion Apps. That puts more than 20,000 applications onto the platform, including almost none that make farting noises and the only decent, mobile, implementation of Go that exists today. More importantly it means the Pre will support the plethora of vertical applications that keep third-party suppliers of emulation software in business, so could offer vertical markets a pain-free transition to WebOS.

How PalmOS applications will be distributed isn't clear; WebOS apps will only be available through the Pre Application Store, and will be digitally signed to ensure security. Securing PalmOS apps should be easier - the emulator will provide a default sandbox, so perhaps Palm will allow user-installation of unapproved applications. Maybe this could keep the platform alive just a little longer, giving Palm time to vet all those SDK application forms. ®

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