Palm Pre smartphone, webOS debut at CES

Palm attempts comeback with touchscreen, advanced social-network sync features

Palm has just introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show  a brand-new touchscreen smartphone, powered by a brand-new operating system.

Palm has just introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show a brand-new touchscreen smartphone, powered by a brand-new operating system.

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The Palm Pre's front is all touchscreen with a single button. It slides upwards vertically, on a slight tilt, to expose a full keyboard. But the CES demonstration was done entirely using the touch interface -- no keyboard and no stylus. (Read John Cox's blog on the Palm Pre.)

The Palm Pre

That's due in part to what Palm dubs webOS. Details of this are still emerging. But blogging from the scene in Las Vegas, reports that Palm officials say that "anyone who knows [Cascading Style Sheets]CSS, HTML and XML will be able to develop for the OS without having to learn any new languages." The user interface is simple and touch-based, with flick-scrolling through lists and gesture support that goes "beyond the screen."

Palm has just released more details about webOS. The software, according to Palm, was designed from the get-go to be "constantly connected to the Web." It's based on a battery of Web standards: CSS, XHTML, and Javascript, meaning it's immediately familiar and accessible to Web developers.

Over this foundation, Palm has layered software to integrate the user's phone experience with the Web. Palm Synergy is one example: The code creates a single, integrated means of tracking and organizing multiple calendars, contacts and messaging applications. If you update a contact on your Palm Pre, Synergy updates the same data on any of your online accounts.

WebOS will run and keep open multiple applications, and lets users instantly flip from one to the other. Notifications or alerts are handled via a scrolling notifications bar at the bottom of the Pre's touchscreen: You can respond to the notice at once or leave it until later.

So far there's little information on the Pre's Web browser, though live bloggers at the Palm CES demonstration have indicated it's fast and capable.

Palm Pre has a 3.1-inch display with 320-by-480-pixel resolution. It features a 3.0 megapixel camera and built-in GPS, 8G flash storage.

One feature is Synergy, a synchronization program that automatically pulls contact information from sites like Facebook, Google and Outlook, organizes it and creates a single listing in the Pre. The phone also offers a consolidated instant-messaging feature from multiple IM services.

The phone supports Sprint Nextel EV-DO Rev A; and comes with built-in 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a micro USB port, USB mass storage support, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The battery is removable but recharges via Touchstone, a wireless, magnetic induction charger, similar to that used for electric toothbrushes.

Pre will be available exclusively via Sprint in the first half of this year. Pricing wasn't disclosed.

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