At a small gathering in San Francisco last night, Palm unveiled a plan to allow developers more openness when it comes to app distribution and e-commerce. "We want to leave it all out there. You know, ‘The Full Monty'" Palm's senior VP of marketing, Katie Mitic stated. For those familiar with the term, it doesn't get much more open than that.
And what does the "webOS Developer Program" as Palm calls it, improve upon? Mainly, you will soon have two options for marketing your applications; the App Catalog, which we are already familiar with, and web distribution, where Palm will provide a sales transaction and fulfillment service to promote applications online. Developers can freely promote their apps online with a unique URL, and customers can still download and install the application OTA. In addition, if your code is open-sourced, Palm will waive the $99 annual fee. From the press release:
This (web) distribution option offers a fast self-certification process as well as the ability for developers to control the distribution and promotion of their applications using the online marketing vehicles they already have and creating new ones as they see fit.
As for promotion, Palm has you covered: Public feeds of application URLs, reviews, ratings and stats will help applications find their market; and directories, ranking mechanisms and "other inventive services" will emerge to help bring exposure to your work. Palm will also have a unique auction process for developers to obtain prominent placement in the App Catalog.
So far, it's clear that Palm's App Catalog is no competition to the giant that is Apple's App Store, with over 2 billion downloads and 85,000 apps. But their direction is clearly not quantity over quality, as Palm Developer Community Manager Chuq Von Rospach would stress, but to hit at Apple's weaknesses, namely openness with developers and web distribution outside of the App Catalog. Web development is also a big focus, with Palm recently hiring Mozilla developers Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith, who headed projects such as Bespin and Ajaxian.
Getting right into the details, Palm's new strategy entails:
- Palm charges a $99 / year program fee for distributing your webOS apps.
- If you wish to then distribute your app in Palm’s App Catalog, there will be a $50 per-application fee.
- If you distribute via the web, you will bypass the application fee, and if you use code that is open-sourced, Palm will waive the yearly fee.
- 70% of all gross revenue goes to developers, 30% to Palm.
As for the app submission process:
- If you want to distribute your app in Palm’s App Catalog, it is subject to review by Palm.
- If you do web distribution, there is a “fast” self-certification process.
What do you think of the new program, and do you plan to take the web distribution route? While foregoing the store altogether would avoid all of Palm's fees, benefits including promotion, analytics, and opportunity for large-scale discovery of your apps seem to outweigh the costs. Plus if your app is open source and you choose web distribution, there would be no overhead to listing.