Palm fans, get your party hats on. Today the company is announcing the beta release of its SDK for webOS 2.0, which means we're getting dangerously close to a proper 2.0 release for devices. And who knows... maybe the phone-maker will decide to throw a new device our way to go along with the OS. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Starting tomorrow, a select (though rather wide, says Palm) group of developers will be able to start toying around with the latest and greatest SDK for the company's mobile operating system, and it looks like the new software brings some tasty morsels to the table that you're definitely going to want to chow down on. We got the scoop directly from Palm on just exactly what kind of changes you'll be seeing in the first version of 2.0, and we've rounded them up in a neatly digestible form below, so read on after the break and get the full story.
  • Stacks - One of the biggest points that Palm focused on was what they called "true multitasking" (a dig at some other platforms with less than "true" multitasking, we assume). Now the company is doing to what is inarguably a robust multitasking scheme in 2.0 with a feature called "card stacks" or "Stacks," which automatically groups related cards together while you're working. That means that if you're in email and open a link (or links) in a browser, those cards will stick together because they're part of a single workflow. You can drag and drop those cards manually, but the function will happen all by itself in the new OS (sans developer or user intervention).
  • Just Type - Palm has gone and renamed Universal Search from webOS to "Just Type," and has opened the API to developers, allowing for custom search engines which dig into both apps on the the device and ping server-side as well. Along with the new search access, developers will have the ability to use something called "Quick Actions" which apparently can string together multiple actions using one command. As Palm puts it, you'll be able to "start an email, create a message, update your status, search your favorite websites-all without having to launch an app."
  • Exhibition - The company is leveraging the Touchstone charger for more than just looking pretty and impressing friends. With the 2.0 SDK, developers will be able to code custom components of their apps (or standalone apps it seems) which switch on only when your phone is docked on the Touchstone. That means that users will be able to select from a variety of mini-apps such as photo slideshows, weather info, clocks, or any combo of the above (and more) to display while the phone charges. Basically a widget / screensaver combo.
  • Synergy improvements - Developers will now be able to tap directly into Synergy, creating custom address books, IM services, and calendar events for apps they create. According to Palm, devs will be able to create IM experience that work in concert with the currently supported profiles, opening some pretty interesting options for those of us who communicate across a wide range of services. Developers will also be able to leverage the contact joining and auto-calendar events that other Synergy-powered apps (like Facebook) enjoy.
  • HTML5 enhancements - Palm is adding better support for HTML5 in webOS 2.0, including image data and gradient use with Canvas, the availability of local and session web storage, geolocation support, and application cache functions (for storing resources on the device for offline use).
  • JavaScript services - The node.js runtime environment will now be accessible to devs working in webOS, meaning they can leverage a growing database of standardized APIs and libraries which will power things like low-level networking, filesystem access, and binary data processing.
  • PDK plugins - Palm is taking its PDK plugin out of beta and fully integrating it into the SDK / OS, allowing devs to more easily port app logic from other platforms (the company's words). Developers will be able to "mix and match" PDK-powered functions with more standard Palm Mojo elements, meaning you can apply the PDK functionality when you need something like OpenGL graphics while still leveraging the HTML / CSS aspects of Palm app creation.
We'd be lying if we told you we weren't excited to see what kind of other front-facing features Palm comes up with for this release, and if we do get to see it coupled with a new, powerful handset (or a tablet or two), we think we could definitely find our interest in Palm rejuvenated. C'mon guys -- you've got the cash and resources now -- go big.

HTC Desire (US Cellular) review