Palm Readies WebOS Update

In addition to releasing new webOS firmware, Palm is boosting its developer tools to better compete against BlackBerry and the iPhone.

In order to better compete in the smartphone space, Palm is preparing to release a software update for its webOS devices and it is also trying to make it easier for developers to create compelling content.

During its earnings call Friday, CEO Jon Rubenstein said the 1.3.5 software will feature numerous improvements for the Pre and Pixi smartphones. He said it will "let customers download and store more applications, enhance Wi-Fi and application performance, improve battery life, and increase Pixi's speed and responsiveness." Rubenstein didn't say when this firmware would be released, but it could be around the Consumer Electronics Show in early January.

Once the king of the U.S. smartphone markets, Palm has been getting hammered by the likes of Apple and Research In Motion, and it has reported 10 consecutive quarterly losses. The Pre and Pixi handsets have produced solid sales, but not enough to bring the company to profitability. Both devices have been exclusive to Sprint Nextel, but the Pre is expected to land on Verizon Wireless in early 2010, and this could boost sales due to the larger potential audience.

One of the reasons webOS devices trail the competition is the lack of mobile programs in its App Catalog. While Palm's store has over 800 applications, Android Market has more than 20,000 apps, and Apple's App Store has more than 100,000 programs.

To combat this, the company recently released a developer tool called Ares that enables content creators to build apps using only their Web browsers. This is in line with the company's larger developer strategy, as the platform is built on standard Web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Palm is hoping this approach will attract Web developers because it makes it easier to create apps with little experience in the mobile field.

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