Palm preps tablet-friendly application framework

The Enyo framework will give offer faster applications and more flexibility for developers

Hewlett-Packard has demonstrated Enyo, an upcoming Javascript framework for webOS, designed to make it easier to develop applications for smartphones and tablets at the same time.

Enyo was demonstrated on Saturday at the webOS developer day in New York. The plan is for Enyo to replace Mojo, the existing framework, during 2011. A program to give developers early access to the SDK (software development kit) will start early next year, according to HP, which acquired Palm and its webOS mobile OS in April.

The improvements in Enyo focus on three areas: performance, ease-of-use and the ability to build applications and user interfaces that can run on products with different screen sizes and resolutions.

During the speech, the company demonstrated a proof-of-concept e-mail application running in Google's Chrome browser, and the audience applauded when the user interface automatically adapted with the size of the window, to show more information in a larger window.

Products, beyond smartphones, based on webOS have been rumored since HP said it planned to acquire Palm. At a recent speech, Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager at HP's Palm business unit, hinted that they are on the way.

The goal with Enyo has been to develop a framework that works well on resource-constrained devices, including the original Palm Pre, according to Matthew McNulty, director of webOS tools and frameworks at HP. Also, if a user has the Pre2, "everything just flies," McNulty said.

Using Enyo, applications will render and start faster. An application that today starts in seven or eight seconds should take a second to start, according to McNulty. There is also built-in hardware acceleration, which will be especially helpful on larger screens, he said.

Developing applications should also become easier using Enyo. For example, the amount of code is reduced and the modular nature of Enyo will allow developers to build more flexible user interfaces and reuse the code they have written.

The Enyo framework will also be compatible with Ares, Palm's Web-based development environment.

The promise with webOS was that developers should be able to use their skills in programming for the Web on Palm's smartphones. However, that promise hasn't been fully realized, according to McNulty. But with Enyo, they should be able to build Web applications the way they like and using the tools they prefer, he said.

Attracting developers has become key for any mobile platform, and here size does matter. Today, webOS' market share is so small that developing on the platform is a non-starter, according to Konrad Hübner, a developer that currently works on Apple's iOS and Android. It is more likely that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 becomes the next platform he starts working on, Hübner said.

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