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Today at the Web 2.0 expo in San Francisco, Palm announced the availability of its Mojo software development kit (SDK). Third-party developers will be able to use this to build applications for its webOS software which will run on the Palm Pre device.

It’s important that Palm got this SDK out to developers before the device launches. As we saw with the launch of the iPhone 3G and App Store last year, it exploded right out of the gate because there were already 500 applications available at launch.

Palm has granted select third-party developers access to its SDK for months. This opening up of the SDK can likely be seen as a sign that the Pre is getting close to launching (or maybe not, more on that below). The date and price on the device have yet to be revealed.

One of the things Palm’s Michael Abbott highlighted during the announcement was that Palm was developing some cloud-based services of its own to offer customers and developers the best possible experience. One of those is the Mojo Messaging Service — it’s an XMPP-based service that can ping your phone based on how developers choose to use it. Sound familiar? Then perhaps you’ve been reading about the Push Notification service that is a part of Apple’s new iPhone 3.0 software SDK.

But it’s worth noting that Abbott said this functionality is still in beta testing, and he says that the company will be listening to customers about how they would like to see it changed. Contrast this with Apple’s Push Notification which Apple delayed for several months to make sure they got it just right before its launch. (Undoubtedly, it didn’t want a repeat of the MobileMe launch fiasco.)

Apple and Palm have been set up as two potentially large rivals going forward in the mobile space. (Of course, the Pre has to be a success first.) Palm, which is full of ex-Apple employees, has made the Pre the first device since the iPhone to use multi-touch technology. This has led a lot of people to speculate that Apple could go after Palm over patent infringement — or vice versa.

Another element of the webOS unveiled today is that it will include software by MotionApps which will allow legacy Palm OS applications to run on the new software.

In announcing the SDK, Abbott noted that its availability will be limited to begin with — they’re calling it the Early Access Program. General availability will occur “later this year,” apparently — and it’s not clear if we should read into that a possible later-than-expected Pre release, or if the device will come out without all developers being able to develop for it (or if it’s just an odd choice of words).

Those seeking access to the SDK, can apply here.

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