Palm Releases webOS Plug-in Development Kit, Showcases 3D Gaming

In addition to the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus devices, a significant announcement today at CES was Palm’s Plug-in Development Kit. Essentially, this opens the doors for robust 3D games on existing Palm Pre devices and of course the new Palm Pre Plus. The new 3D games are available now in the App Catalog. Several high profile game developers were offered early access to the new PDK, including EA Mobile how demonstrated “Need for Speed” on the Palm Pre.

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Again, these games are available now via the Palm App Catalog and definitely the most impressive gaming we’ve seen on the Palm webOS platform. Full details of the Palm PDK after the break.

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We’re excited to announce a new addition to the webOS development platform: the webOS Plug-in Development Kit (PDK) lets developers extend their webOS applications by writing plug-ins in C or C++. The webOS PDK makes it easy for developers to leverage existing code and exposes new capabilities — including high-performance 3D graphics.

The webOS SDK is based on web technologies. All of Palm’s own webOS applications use this SDK to deliver an exceptional user experience created using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. However, we recognize that many developers have existing applications written using C or C++ and other non-web technologies such as OpenGL ES. While the webOS SDK delivers an exceptional and highly productive way to create new applications, we have no desire to require developers to completely rewrite their existing applications when only minor modifications are necessary to make them run on our platform.

Further, the web has a long tradition of browser plug-ins such as Adobe Flash and Google’s Gears to enhance the experience provided by the web itself, often by augmenting the capabilities that web standards and browsers offer.

We have therefore created the webOS Plug-in Development Kit (PDK) with the following objectives:

  • Easy porting of C/C++ applications to webOS, including those that use OpenGL ES 1.1 or 2.0
  • Easy integration of C/C++ components to enhance the capabilities of webOS applications

At CES 2010, we demonstrated many third-party applications built using a pre-release version of the webOS PDK, including 3D games from EA Mobile, Gameloft, Glu Mobile and Laminar Research. These developers have been able to bring their existing applications to webOS quickly and with minimal effort using the PDK.

webOS PDK Overview

The PDK is based on the following core technologies:

  • GCC for compiling C/C++ code to ARM native code
  • SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer), a cross-platform multimedia library designed to provide low-level access to audio, keyboard, mouse, joystick, 3D hardware via OpenGL ES, and a 2D video framebuffer

The PDK supports a wide range of use cases, ranging from full-screen 3D games to compute-intensive tasks that run behind the scenes of an app written mostly in HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Plug-ins can render graphics to the entire display, to just a portion, or not at all.

We’ll share more details on the PDK in the coming weeks.

HTML, JavaScript, CSS and the PDK

The PDK offers access to some capabilities —  like accelerated OpenGL-powered 3D graphics — that are not currently exposed to applications built entirely with web technologies.

However, we are hard at work delivering similar capabilities to all webOS applications. While we are not yet ready to announce our specific SDK plans in this area, we are closely tracking the rapid evolution of browser capabilities based on emerging standards, such as WebGL, CSS Transforms, and O3D for 3D graphics, and we are enormously excited about their potential to revolutionize the web.

You can expect us to aggressively implement the best of these and other similar forward-looking web standards, proposed web standards, and other extensions designed to expose native device capabilities to webOS applications.

Release Schedule

We have been working closely with a handful of partners as we refine the PDK’s design and initial implementation, but we’ll be expanding soon. A public beta release of the PDK is scheduled to be available to all webOS developers in March, followed by an official release in the first half of 2010.

If you’re interested in receiving early access to the PDK, please send an email to pdk-info@palm.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and be sure to include details about who you are and what you intend to do with the PDK

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