Palm opens its Virtual Developer Lab

New plan for engaging developers and getting their programs to market includes renting out hourly remote access to Palm phones to complete tests and make tweaks.

It's one thing to bang out a quick third-party program for a single phone model, and quite another to develop a mobile application that works as predicted on a battalion of cell phone models, each with their own set of finely cultured specs.

For numerous reasons, developers may not have all those phones at the ready, and when it comes time for final testing, emulators that live on the screen and mimic device behavior just aren't good enough.

Palm Centro

If you're Palm, a mobile platform and device manufacturer that's fighting for its slimmed-down market share, you'd want to encourage developers to get their applications out there. That could be one reason why, with the help of DeviceAnywhere, Palm is launching its Virtual Developer Lab. Simply put, developers will rent hourly remote access to Palm phones in the physical world to complete their tests and make tweaks. Software makers throughout the community will be able to collaborate on projects in real time or fly solo to finish their products and bring them to market.

It's Palm's undertaking, but DeviceAnywhere is running the show. Previously known as MobileComplete, the company, headed by CEO Faraz Syed, has established management systems for helping developers on all platforms port and monitor applications to shared hardware pools for over 1,000 cell phone models. The remote access software includes a built-in advanced reservation system for booking time on a device, and a first-come, first-served queue that alerts the next developer in line when it's his or her turn to test a program's mettle. When they're done, a clean-up script plucks out leftover artifacts.

For the Palm Virtual Developer Lab, data centers sprinkled across the globe will house the 13 Palm handsets, for which developers will pay $100 per month and $13 to $16 per hour to access. This system replaces Palm's previous invite-only lab for premium developing partners, said Syed, which shut out the majority of developers.

No doubt the initiative will spark discussion about Palm's attempts to steady its declining presence in the mobile industry even after some lift brought by the Centro device in late 2007. Interested developers can register for the Palm Virtual Developer Lab here.

Related articles:
For the Palm faithful: Treo 800w rumors abound
Palm closing retail stores, paying out Treo owners

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.