By Maggie Shiels
Technology Reporter, BBC News, San Francisco
Palm unveiled the Pre at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
Smarthphone maker Palm is pitching its new software development kit (SDK) for its next-gen operating system, WebOS.
However, the company has refused to say when the long-awaited Palm Pre will go on sale and how much the product will cost.
The company announced the launch of the new Mojo SDK at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.
"Developers are an incredibly important part of the WebOS ecosystem," said Palm's Michael Abbott.
"We're eager to get the SDK into their hands and are very excited to work with developers to make this unique development environment even better."
Despite announcing the SDK to a conference hall filled with thousands of developers attending this week's Web 2.0 Expo, Mr Abbott - Palm's vice-president of application software and services - said not everyone would be able to get their hands on it straight away.
Palm has started what it calls an "early access programme" so a limited number of developers can actually get their hands on the kit.
The company said that it would "gradually increase the size of the programme as the tools mature".
"Now that the SDK will be available to a broader base of developers, we think enthusiasm for WebOS will only grow," said Mr Abbott.
'Next major step'
The Pre was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
The touchscreen handset runs the web-centric operating system WebOS, which aims to help people organise and manage their online contacts and identities.
It is being talked up as a rival to the iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia's N97 and the Google G1 phone.
There will be no charge to download the SDK
The release of the SDK is being seen as a significant development in the life of the Pre smartphone.
"The Mojo SDK is the next major step in the Pre's release timeline, as well as a boon for next-generation smartphones," said Wired magazine's Michael Calore.
"It will give developers another major platform to build apps for, joining the Apple iPhone, Google's Android and Nokia's Symbian."
Palm also revealed it would deploy its first Palm-branded cloud service, which access its resources over the internet.
The company said that when the Mojo SDK was broadly released later this year, it would include a "developer-facing offering called the Mojo messaging service".
This was demonstrated by Mr Abbott during his presentation at Web 2.0 and lets applications display data updates on a small bar at the bottom of the phone's screen, unlike the iPhone which uses pop-ups to show updates.
Another aspect of the WebOS is that it includes software by MotionApps, which will allow legacy Palm OS applications to run on the new software.
The Mojo SDK used open-source technologies to build applications. The tools necessary to write for WebOS - HTML, CSS and Java - are the same as web developers use. Palm believes this makes WebOS an attractive choice for developers.
"We've been pitching to companies and they're excited, because the same guy working on their website can make a WebOS app," said Palm's director of product management, Paul Cousineau.
"That makes it totally different and changes the dynamic about the hard decisions around how you deploy your resources."