Our sibling site, PreCentral.net has put together something we're openly and admittedly jealous of -- a brand-spanking new Homebrew Apps gallery for the Palm Pre. For those unfamiliar with Homebrew, think of it as something akin to the iPhone's Jailbreak ecosystem, where apps are developed outside "official" SDK channels and installed without the built in App Store (or App Catalog in this case).
Jailbreak, of course, is and has always been one of the brightest, most creative and vibrant parts of the iPhone (and TiPb!) community, and it looks like Homebrew is every bit the same for the Palm Pre (and likely future webOS devices).
What makes this particularly interesting is that Jailbreak sprang up initially because Apple didn't provide an SDK or App Store for 3rd party apps at all with the original iPhone 2G and iPhone OS 1.0. Jailbreak continued after the official SDK shipped and the App Store appeared with iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0, however, because Apple took a very hard editorial line on approval (and rejection), creating a gap in functionality and leaving out whole classes of applications. And this has continued to be the case well after iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 (See Jeremy's most recent Top 5 Must-Have Jailbreak Apps Post-iPhone 3.0 Edition for examples).
The webOS SDK wasn't generally available to everyone who wanted it, when they wanted it, and the App Catalog didn't have tons and tons of apps available when it shipped. Palm enthusiasts saw gaining dev access and developing Homebrew as a highly desirable mountain in their back yard that just demanded to be climbed. And now there are all sorts of wonderful Homebrew apps appearing and -- here's the kicker -- Palm thus far seems to be okay with it. They didn't lock down the system to the extent exploits are needed to Jailbreak (just the most awesome Konami code), and they're not petitioning to prevent any exemptions from the DMCA... yet.
It's easy to see the upside. You get super-passionate, uber-talented developers buying into your platform and building apps some of which will no-doubt end up in the official App Catalog, and some of which might just fill gaps that carrier or corporate policy require be filled unofficially.
Apple will likely never go the same route as Palm -- despite the overlapping executives and engineers, the cultures are different and need to be to compete. Looking at the Homebrew community, however, it's hard not to believe that even if Apple pulled a 180 and cracked the giant stone gates of the App Store well and truly open, Jailbreaking wouldn't continue as well, a test bed for new ideas, fringe cases, and future development of the platform (oh, and carrier unlock, of course...).
In the meantime -- we can't resist -- check out PreCentral.net and smellellellell what the Homebrew community is cooking!