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Dear Palm: The Last Thing You Want To Do Right Now Is Screw Over App Developers

from the bad,-bad-idea dept

The Palm Pre comes out in a few weeks, and many are hoping that this is finally the smartphone out there that can capably compare to the iPhone. Of course, one key to that is having a devoted developer community that makes the device more valuable. Palm is betting the business on the Pre, and some of the early reports I'd heard from developers about its WebOS platform were that it was a great development environment. Since I think it's good for the overall market to have strong competitors, I was hopeful that maybe the Pre would live up to the hype (to be honest, I'm thinking about getting one myself). However, slimcat, points us to the story of overly legalistic Palm overreacting to a minor issue and canceling a chance to work with the folks who were setting up PreDevCamp. Now, Palm had no obligation to work with the folks setting it up, but it would be a good way to support the developer community. So why did they bail out? Apparently because one of the folks behind PreDevCamp mentioned on Twitter that he was meeting with Palm, but that he couldn't say anything since the meeting was under NDA.

Now, if you've been around larger companies for any length of time, you can see why this happened. It's pretty standard that a meeting under NDA means that even the fact that the meeting exists is covered by the non-disclosure agreement. So... I can understand (at first glance) how Palm reacted. But, Palm really should have taken a step back and looked at the larger picture. Having the guy reveal the meeting was hardly a big issue. The bigger issue is helping developers feel as comfortable as possible developing for the Pre and making the device as valuable as possible. Freaking out over a harmless "leak" about the meeting is missing the big picture in a way that only hurts Palm. Update: Looks like things are getting worked out with Palm apologizing for overreacting and a nice airing of differences that seems to have worked well for both sides.

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  1. identicon
    AnonCow, 22 May 2009 @ 6:05pm

    Maybe Palm blew up the deal, not because of any NDA breach, but because they believe, like I do, that Twitter users are generally morons...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Freedom, 22 May 2009 @ 6:25pm

    Room for Palm?

    I'll be buying a Palm somewhere near the release - assuming I can get one and don't have to wait in line and my plan doesn't have to upgraded in any major way to use it... already paying for unlimited, etc.

    However, one has to question whether there is really room for another phone OS. Just like PCs, gaming platforms, etc., there are only so many platforms you can develop for and now with Apple in the mix, I just don't see room for Palm.

    Sure their device is cool, but unless someone else mis-steps in a big way, I don't see the long term success. For me, this is kind of like the Amiga - really cool system, but in the big picture a failed computer system.

    For them to succeed they need coolness and a ton of applications and doing this isn't going to help those that are thinking about developing for the platform. Love or hate Microsoft, they are developer/app friendly. They really should have had given the phone out to any one that has developed major applications for the iPhone as a present and asked them to make the same applications for the Pre - maybe they had and just hadn't twittered about it :).

    Maybe Microsoft will screw up on WM7 and open the door for Palm. I doubt that though if Windows 7 is any indication - Microsoft is starting to get focus again and starting to get its 'groove' back. However, they really need to get WM7 in the market soon or else there might not be any room for them.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Prenatic, 22 May 2009 @ 6:52pm

    no singing the blues for the palm pre...

    Palm Pre Prenatics Song

    Risin' up, back on the street
    Did my time, took my chances
    Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
    Just a Palm Pre and I need you Prenatics to survive

    So many times, it happens too fast
    And Palm and Garnet changed their passion for glory
    Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
    You must fight just to keep them alive

    It's the Palm Pre eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the cell phones fight
    Risin' up to the challenge of our rivals
    And the First known Palm Pre Prenatic stalks his prey in the night
    And the competition watchin' us with their eye on the tweets!

    Face to face, out in the heat
    Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry
    They stack the odds 'til we take to the street
    For we kill with the skill of our WebOS

    Risin' up, straight to the top
    Have the guts, got the glory
    Went the distance, now Prenatics not gonna stop
    Just a Palm Pre and I need you Prenatics to survive

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 7:26pm

    Re: Room for Palm?

    I agree with your comments about there not really being room for another mobile operating system. I am one of those T-Mobile G1 customers who drank the Kool-Aid and have spent the last six months feeling that, even at the heavily discounted price, the G1 was a complete and total waste of money. I'm now back to the Windows Mobile device - it's not better, it's just that all the apps I need for work were written for it, and the software developers have no interest in writing a G1 app for the three customers who will use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Phoenix, 22 May 2009 @ 8:24pm

    AnonCow hit the nail on the head. Twitter users are morons. Somebody should explain what an NDA is to these tweet-brains.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Dirk Belligerent, 22 May 2009 @ 9:12pm


    INT -- PALM HQ - DAY

    The boss of Palm is talking on his speakerphone.

    PALM BOSS: OK, guys, I think we can really help each other. I'm emailing you the NDA right now. Sign and fax those back and we're in business.


    Dan and Gio look at each other and silently mouth excitement and mime giving each other high fives. Gio starts doing the Snoopy dance.

    DAN: Thank you very much. You won't be disappointed. We be, I mean, ARE professionals.


    PALM BOSS: I'm glad to hear that. The Pre is, as you can understand, very important to the future of Palm...

    In Dan's Mom's basement, Gio pulls a Blackberry out of his pocket and starts to peck away at the keys.

    PALM BOSS (CONT): ...and we want to keep a lid on some of what we're doing so that Apple doesn't...doesn't...

    His voice trails off as he stares with disbelief at his computer monitor.


    A web browser is opened to Twitter and the top post on the feed reads:

    GioDawg469 - ZOMG! i haz a TOP SECRET meating @ Palm. shhhh!!! iz sekret. lulz!!!

    The Palm Boss covers his face with his hand for a moment before speaking.

    PALM BOSS: Um...guys?

    DAN: Yes?

    PALM BOSS: Did Gio just tweet about this meeting.

    Dan looks panic-stricken. Gio has his back to him as he badly cycles through dances like the Running Man and the Cabbage Patch.

    DAN: Uh, I didn't. No. Why?

    PALM BOSS: Do you two know what NDA stands for?

    GIO (whispers to Dan): It's how Short Round cheers for Indy.

    Dan lashes out, punching Gio in the ear. Gio collapses to the floor in a heap and a dark, wet spot begins to grow on the front of his pants.

    DAN: Is there a problem?



    I know some people want to bag on Palm for not, well, not being Apple, but if someone doesn't act as the grownup, then boneheads like Gio are going to screw things up in the long run. This is Big Business, not Romper Room. Apple stomps all over their devs, but the Kool-Aid keeps people placated and they focus their anger at Palm instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    palm, 22 May 2009 @ 9:22pm

    they have to

    They will have to do it sooner or later in order to be on the top of the smartphone market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 9:42pm

    3 points.

    Has it hurt Apple to treat developers badly?

    My VX 6700 (or is it XV?) has been around much longer than the iPhone and I wouldn't trade it for an iPhone.

    Maybe this guy talking about a meeting itself isn't that bad, but does that threaten Palms deals with other developers? Lose 1 to keep 100 happy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2009 @ 4:39am

    I am a developer, and I must admit that simply telling that a meeting took place might be covered by NDA would not have occurred to me in million years. I had always thought that NDA was like a password-protected file: you can see that it exists and the filename, but not the contents.

    I would say that this is a case of pretty fundamental difference in how different people think about legal matters. When I read from the post on how it is standard practise that "NDA means that even the fact that the meeting exists is covered by the non-disclosure agreement", my first thought was that this has to be a mistake, followed by a shock that it could be true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Nation of Laws, 23 May 2009 @ 4:48am


    Doesn't the question of whether an NDA covers the existence of a 'meeting' or whatever depend on the language of the particular NDA? Duh!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Giovanni Gallucci, 23 May 2009 @ 6:48am


    This has got the to be single BEST comment related to this whole affair I've seen! While not entirely accurate, Dan's mom's house doesn't have a basement, it's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. :-) -giovanni

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Giovanni Gallucci, 23 May 2009 @ 7:17am

    The Spirit of the NDA

    For clarification, since the NDA is the only thing being discussed here. We were very specific and direct that we signed the NDA to cover the release date of the phone. Nothing else. The fact the the meting was taking place or that we had an NDA was absolutely not part of the agreement.

    Second point, Paul C. and Chuq V.R. at Palm had asked us on a previous call to make sure the community knew they were talking to us. They were held under some tight restrictions about what they could say to the public, for obvious reasons, and had asked us to be sure the developer community knew they were engaged.

    It appears that the two competing needs (communication to the community that Palm was talking to the independent developers via preDevCamp and secrecy) driven by separate camps clashed.

    This, coupled with our frustrations based upon some other issues in our relationship with Palm led to the decisions by whurley and myself to exit the scene.

    The worldwide movement we created under the preDevCamp banner is, by design, in tact and all local groups, as far as I can tell, are still planning their individual events.

    Last point, Palm gets it now...

    Pam Deziel, VP of Developer Marketing, responded on the Palm Developer Network blog this morning about the situation:

    "We overreacted to the whole disclosure issue. We’ve been in stealth and super secret mode for so long now, we needed a real world conversation to see how we needed to work things so everybody can operate in their own environment."

    "I’m optimistic that we can find a good solution. And we’re going to keep talking. We’d love to get your two cents, concerns, and suggestions — feel free to join the conversation here, and be assured that even when we sometimes have to keep quiet, we’re always listening to your ideas."

    Read the whole post here:

    Whurley and I are here to serve the community, not the corporation. When it became obvious that we needed to make a bold move to get Palm's attention on behalf of preDevCamp, we moved. Whether you agree with our tactics or not, Palm is seriously paying attention to you now.

    The end result has been a more active, genuine, serious relationship between Palm and its independent developer community. Everyone wins. This is what we, as leaders of the preDevCamp movement, hoped to create in the beginning. It looks like we're here now.

    Anyone want to talk to me about it personally, feel free to catch me on twitter, email at predevcamp(@)gallucci(dot)net or leave a comment on my original post

    I'm thinking it's water under the bridge now. Nothing to see here. Go forth and develop. I'm going camping.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Griffon, 23 May 2009 @ 12:20pm

    current state of dev camp.

    Current info from palm is
    * Palm supports preDevCamp 100%
    * We overreacted to the whole disclosure issue. We’ve been in stealth and super secret mode for so long now, we needed a real world conversation to see how we needed to work things so everybody can operate in their own environment.
    * As messy as it feels right now, the passion of the community is incredibly positive

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Thomas, 25 May 2009 @ 4:22am

    not clear on the concept

    Large companies like Palm have a tendency to shoot themselves in the butt. Nothing surprising - legal people forget that the company's goal,which is to sell devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    MattP, 26 May 2009 @ 9:50am


    Caveat: 140 characters or less

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    linda, 8 Jun 2009 @ 1:38pm


    Too bad about this one. I was so hoping Palm would get themselves back on track.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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