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Pocket PC, Palm, something else?

I want to try and build some PDA client-apps that can use a wireless network like 802.11 and interact with a Web server.

What's the most popular mobile applications platform?

Which one has the best developer tools?

Which one is the most inexpensive to buy/develop for?

Thanks in advance for any comments!

(Disclaimer: I am googling now, but this is not objective material)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I have a Palm m500 and a Dell Axim...  Thus far, the Axim has been the only one I've been able to get a free IDE to work with.  So, my opinion, PocketPC is the way to go.

Andrew Burton
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I have been developing mobile applications for quite a while now. I have developed for both Palm OS and Pocket PC platforms.
For Pocket PC there are free tools from Microsoft  - Microsoft eMbedded Visual Tools(VC++ and VB). It's quite good depending on the kind of applications you want to develop. Also you can use Visual Studio.NET and .NET Compact Framework to develop for Windows Mobile 2003 systems.
For Palm OS, the most popular tool is Codewarrior for Palm OS. But it's not free. There are also other open source tools available. And PalmSource recently released Palm Developer Studio based on Eclipse IDE platform. I have not used it yet. So I don't know much about it.
Then there are some third party tools like Crossfire from AppForge availabe which lets you develop for both Palm OS and Pocket PC along with Symbian platform from the same code set suing VS.NET or VB. But in order for your application to run on various devices, you need to bundle or the end user needs to install a driver called Booster. And the tools and booster are not free. It could get quite expensive. And also as far as performance is considered it's best to develop natively running applications, seperately for each platform.
But the advantage of these tools are you get to support multiple platforms without developing from scratch for each one.
As far as the platform selection is considered, Palm devices used to be cheaper, more widely used, and had longer battery life. But now both Palms and PocketPCs have the same market share, battery life and cost. So I think it's kind of harder to decide which platform to develop for.
Some things to keep in mind while choosing the platform:
- Pocket PCs have been gaining more and more market share over the last few years
- If you have been developing using Microsoft tools, developing for Pocket PCs is much easier
- If you are a hardcore C or C++ programmer, you will find Palm programming a breeze too.
Personally I have found the developer support, resources etc are much better for Pocket PC compared to Palm. Palm does have some excellent newsgroups though. And people there are extremely intelligent and helpful. (One of those excellent Palm developers, Ben Combee hangs out here on JOS too :) ).
If you are developing WiFi applications, I would suggest developing Web applications using ASP.NET for both Palm and Pocket PC platforms. You can develop single application, hosted on a web server, running on Pocket IE and PalmOS browsers. It's kind of tricky to support both the platforms and functionality may be limited in certain extent, but you could develop some great mobile web applications quite fast and easily.

Hope this is helpful. Feel free to write to me if you have any questions,  I will be more than glad to help in any way I can.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

As a PalmSource employee, I definitely get a lot of feedback on developer support.  I think cultures of Pocket PC and Palm OS are a bit different, with PPC evolving from the PC/IT world, but having growing pains in adapting to the small form factor, while Palm OS comes from the Mac OS/Newton culture, is focused completely on small devices, but had had a lot of growing to adjust for IT demands.  Palm OS solves a lot of problems differently from Pocket PC; the solutions are valid, and may make more sense when buillding for platforms with limited resources, but they take some adjustment.

Ben Combee
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I have heard good things about AppForge. It abstracts TCP/IP and HTTP I believe and all you need is an XML library after that and you'll have poor man's XML-RPC with the ease of Visual Basic 6. You'll need to buy both VB6 and AppForge (and maybe a decent XML library) but in the end it should do custom forms well enough to save you tons of hours of work. I don't know how efficient it is but I imagine it's not too slow for most sales forces or data collection.

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

WiFi is fun; but the next step is over mobile networks, e.g. a smartphone

i like i
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

We have been using Ant mobile for a long time to run flash applications on the pocketpc, but we're hoping the ability to run flash will eventually appear on the Treo 600/610 - any word on this?  Also any truth to the rumors that the Treo may run other OSs in the future beside palm?

see story at:

Matt O'Malley
Sunday, June 13, 2004

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