Friday, January 09, 2009

Palm's Pre = iPhone Killer?

Yesterday, Palm (you know, the guys that INVENTED the PDA!) - came out hibernation with a new device they're calling the "Pre" (pronounced PREE). Yes, it's yet another handset with yet another operating system. We all need THAT like a hole in the head, I agree... but I digress...

It has most of the features that you would expect if you were designing a new handset from scratch (and take 3+ years to do it!). It has built-in GPS, WiFi (b & g flavors), BlueTooth, IM, MMS, and SMS, built-in Exchange support (in addition to POP and IMAP), 8GB internal storage, micro USB 2.0 connector, removable battery, based on Linux, fast Webkit browser (same underlying engine as Safari), etc.

It's not expected to ship until the end of Q2 and will only be available on the Sprint Network. No pricing or plan details have emerged yet - but somehow I think it will be compatible with the Google G1 phone and (probably) less expensive than the iPhone.

However, there are a couple of pretty interesting things about the Pre that are revolutionary and that I predict will show up in other handset/OS offerings in the future:

Slide-out QWERTY keyboard - AND a touch screen
All apps (including Palm's own built-in apps) are HTML/CSS/JavaScript
Multiple applications run at the same time (and retain their state)
A new wireless "Touchstone" charging system (lay the phone on it - and it charges - when you get a call while charging it automatically answers when you pick it up)

So, is this thing an iPhone killer? Dunno. All I've really seen is some great in-depth coverage by Engadget so it's not really "fair" to compare it to the current iPhone.

BUT... there are some things that are missing in the 1.0 version that I'm not so sure I could do without like no International Roaming (or International version - as yet) and no graphics layer for gaming.

In addition, there were only sketchy details about the SDK and how they are going to distribute 3rd party applications (they will obviously have their own version of an "App Store-like" site). There's also about 1,000,000 more unanswered questions about data storage, built-in SQL databases, how application release management will work, etc., etc.

It's sort of nice to see Palm (what's left of it) come back into the mainstream. Their device looks pretty interesting (more so than the Google G1 Android phone I demoed) - and they have some really good ideas. But, as always - the devil is in the details - and right now there aren't that many of them. Time will tell if this little baby has what it takes to take on the iPhone.

I hope that Apple doesn't drop the ball, and just start pumping out "nano" versions of the iPhone - but I hope they really get their act together and come out with an even cooler, even more innovative product sometime in 2009.

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