Sprint makes business case for Palm Pre

Sprint wants the Pre to be part of corporate world.

Although the Palm Pre is getting a lot of attention for its use to consumers, Sprint representatives today starting pushing its potential benefits to enterprise users.

Waltham, Mass. -- Although the Palm Pre is getting a lot of attention for its value to consumers, Sprint representatives today started pushing its potential benefits to corporate users.

During Sprint’s Productivity Now conference in Waltham, MA today, Sprint Vice President of Marketing Tim Donahue said the Pre’s support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync made it more enterprise-ready than the iPhone’s first iteration, which had no enterprise features. He also said that Palm was busy working on several “advanced security features” for the device that would be released sometime in the next two months that would make the device able to safely hook onto corporate IT servers.

“This device has a majority of things you’d want as a business user but it has a cool factor about it,” he said. “Palm has indicated in next the 60 days you’ll see continuous improvements to its enterprise capabilities. If you think about it from a timeline perspective, it’s really ambitious. Most companies would wait for the next generation of the device to come out before tackling all these issues.”

But although Palm is expected to launch several native software updates to improve the Pre’s security features, users looking for third-party enterprise applications might have to wait a little longer than originally expected. Palm said today that it is delaying the release of its webOS software development kit until the end of the summer, meaning that third-party developers won’t have the ability to create new applications for the Pre for at least the next couple of months. Palm’s webOS was designed to make developing applications for the operating system simple, as it is based on familiar Web standards such as CSS, XHTML and Javascript. The idea behind using well-known standards, the company says, is to make it easier for applications to integrate with each other.

Of course, Sprint would contend that software updates are only one part of the Pre’s appeal. Donahue said today that Sprint would provide compelling reasons for business users to buy the Pre, such as its Direct Connect push-to-talk technology and its low-cost enterprise plans. This past January, Sprint began offering business users push-to-talk services that include text messaging and picture e-mail starting at under $30 a month for each user. The company's Unlimited Workgroup

Communications offers unlimited Direct Connect push-to-talk services, along with unlimited text messaging and free night and weekend minutes for $29.99 per month. The company is also offering an enterprise voice and data plan that has all the features of its Workgroup Communications plan along with unlimited data and GPS use for $39.99 a month per user.

On the subject of the Pre’s sales numbers, Donahue said that it had met or exceeded the carrier’s expectations so far. The Pre’s sales, which were estimated at around 50,000 during its first weekend, have so far been dwarfed by sales of the iPhone 3GS, which reportedly topped 1 million during its first weekend. Donahue says that Sprint never expected the Pre to be a magic bullet that would suddenly catapult the carrier back into the same market share as AT&T and Verizon, but that the company rather looked at it as a continued step in the right direction that would give the carrier a reputation for quality to build upon in its future offerings.

“The launch of the Pre was big for us because you need a monumental event to gain momentum,” he said. “Now we have to make sure that we continue to build on it…. Nobody ever has an exclusivity agreement for the best device released on the market every year. But if you look at the last two years that hasn’t happened for us, and I think what this does for us is it gives us credibility as competing at the leading edge.”

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