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Test Drive webOS Without Buying a Phone

With all the new mobile operating systems how do you to know which one to pick? Like Android, Palm has a webOS emulator to allow developers to test applications without physical hardware. Here is how you can test drive webOS on your computer for free.

Getting Started

The Palm webOS SDK/PDK requires that you have Java installed for the developer tools as well as VirtualBox 3.2.6 or higher.

The first step is to install Java Runtime Environment (JRE). You may already have JRE installed and you can verify if it is installed by opening a command prompt and typing in the command java -version. You should get a output just like the one below. If you get this output you already have Java installed and you can skip to installing VirtualBox.

If you get an error that Java is not a recognized command then you need to install the Java Runtime Environment. If after you install JRE you still get an error, install the Java Development Kit and then try again (see links below).

Install Java like you normally would from Oracle’s website.

Make sure you avoid any crapware they bundle with the installation like the worthless Yahoo Toolbar.

sshot20100712194659

Install VirtualBox

If you don’t already have VirtualBox, and you should, you can download it from Oracle’s website (link below). Pick the host OS that you are using and download the installer.

Install VirtualBox and start the program so it can create the default .virtualbox folders.

Install Palm SDK

Now we can install the actual Palm SDK tools which will install the webOS emulator for us. Go to Palm’s developer site (link below) and download the latest SDK.

Install the software by clicking next a few times to accept the default settings.

After the install, go to your start menu (Applications folder in OS X and menu in Linux) and launch the Palm Emulator.

sshot-2010-07-23-[22-15-38]

You will get a pop-up asking which screen resolution you would like to use.

Note: I would suggest using the highest resolution possible since your computer resolution will still easily be able to fit the resolution.

The command will create a virtual machine inside VirtualBox first.

VirtualBox will automatically start the virtual machine once it has been created.

Once the emulator finishes booting you will be able to play with the emulator just like the real phone.

You can click on the “screen” and launch apps just like the real phone.

Load up a website and then hit the Home button on your keyboard to launch a second application. Swipe left and right to change applications and swipe the card up to close the application.

Note: While using the emulator the Esc key will simulate the “back” swipe and the tab key will open the menu. The left and right arrows will simulate long swipes on the gesture area and End will simulate pushing the center “button” in the gesture area.

Some features may not work, such as screen rotation, multitouch, and GPS but the main OS features will at least let you try it out.

If you want to get a feel for how webOS works with your email you can launch the mail application and set up your accounts.

Launching the Emulator

If you want to open the virtual machine later you can open VirtualBox and just launch the VM directly from the menu.

Highlight the VM and click on settings to rename the VM to something that makes more sense to you. I simply named mine “webOS”.

You can also make a shortcut to launch the VM directly. Right click on your desktop and create a new shortcut. In the location of item field browse to your VBoxManage executable. In most cases it will be in your main Program Files under the Oracle\VirtualBox folder. Then type in startvm webOS (or whatever you named your VM).

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a new Smartphone, the hardware and carrier is only half the choice. You want to make sure you know what you are getting into when you pick a mobile OS and virtual machines are a great way to get to know your software before deciding with your wallet. Playing with the VM should give you a good chance to know what the OS is like and what you can do with it. Not only is the SDK completely free but so are developer accounts and application submissions to the catalog.

If you want to test out Android then check out our article on how to test drive Android on your PC.

Links

Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and Java Development Kit (JDK) can be downloaded from here.

Download VirtualBox

Palm SDK download

Justin is a Linux and HTPC enthusiast who loves to try new projects. He isn't scared of bricking a cell phone in the name of freedom.

  • Published 07/26/10

Comments (10)

  1. Matthew Guay

    Thanks for the nice overview. Can you access the App Catalog and download/try out new apps in the emulator?

  2. motang

    Awesome tip, I would try this out if I didn’t have a Pre already. :)

  3. Harry

    All set to continue , installed programs in Ubuntu 10.04… There is not item in
    program menu , so is there a command line command

    The Android emulations worked fine on my Ubuntu OS

    Interesting item / s

    Herry

  4. Rothgar

    @Matthew Guay There is a way to install the catalog/apps and I am working on that article now.

    @Harry the command line should be “palm-emulator” in a terminal. You may need to start novacom first by typing in “/opt/Palm/novacom/novacomd”

    Hope that gets it running for you

  5. donald Spaulding

    I installed frespire operating system. and am looking for someone to advise me on how to get programs installed on my computer. please advise me as to what to do.

  6. Matthew

    So much easier to emulate than Android and Windows Mobile, now if only we could emulate iOS on Windows (not going to happen, I know).

  7. juan

    and emulator for iphone? ;)

  8. segadc

    It’s cool! Cannot wait for the catalog/apps article!

  9. Oladipo Ademola

    Unfortunately, it doesnt support VirtualBox 4. Only 3.0 to 3.2

  10. Siva Sagar

    I don’t know if this is with any one.. I am unable to download the older versions of virtual box. I can download any file with 100kbps. When I try to download virtual box, it gradually decreases and stucks at some point. Tried with different browses but didn’t helped.
    Please help!!!

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