Sprint CEO calls the iPhone the "Michael Jordan" of smartphones

It's not often that you hear a CEO praise a competing product, but late this week, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse sat down with Charlie Rose and had some interesting things to say about the iPhone and the mobile industry as a whole.

It's not often that  you hear a CEO praise a competing product, but late this week, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse sat down with Charlie Rose and had some interesting things to say about the iPhone and the mobile industry as a whole.

Since it first made its debut at CES last January, the Palm Pre has been hyped up as the only smartphone that can give the iPhone a run for its money.  Like the iPhone, the Pre comes with a multitouch screen and a polished UI, and relative to other smartphones on the market, the Pre certainly stands out.  Initially, Palm executives were quick to dismiss any notions that the Pre was an "iPhone killer" and that they were competing directly with Apple.  Instead, Palm touted the Pre as a device that stood on its own two feet, a smartphone that was a winner in its own right.  But since its release this past June, friction between Palm and Apple has steadily increased, in large part due to the cat and mouse game rooted in the Pre's on-again off-again ability to sync up with iTunes.  Add in the fact that a few of Palm's executives and many of its engineers are former Apple employees, and we have a good old fashioned Silicon Valley shootout on our hands.

Granted, Sprint is a mobile carrier and not a handset manufacturer, but it nonetheless is in direct competition with Apple to the extent that the iPhone is an AT&T exclusive and the Pre a Sprint exclusive. 

That said, when Hessee was recently asked by Charlie Rose about how the Palm Pre has been doing against the iPhone, Hesse candidly remarked that it's not really a fair comparison.

Q: Is the Palm Pre making a dent into the iPhone market?

A: Aaah... It's-it's doing well, but you can almost put the iPhone, to be fair, in a separate category. The Apple brand and that device have done so well, it's almost not... it's like comparing someone to Michael Jordan.

Hesse's remarks are surprising because most executives, be they from Palm, Microsoft, or Verizon, have been quick to downplay the success of the iPhone and trump up their own products and services.  To his credit, Hesse seems to understand that it's better to acknowledge that there's work to be done instead of blindly asserting that things couldn't be going better. 

And for what it's worth, MJ was just inducted into the hall of fame.  Just sayin..

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