Premature to Call Pre the savior of Palm

Given all he buzz about Palm's announcement of the Palm Pre, and my passion (obsession?) for handheld gadgets, you know I've got to blog about the Palm Pre announcement. In case you haven't heard, Palm announced their iPhone killer touchscreen phone, the Pre. The Pre's big differentiators are having a touchscreen and a QWERTY keypad, a "gestures area" in addition to touching the screen, and their new web OS with multiprocessing, multiple browsers running, Synergy email and contacts integration, and card metaphor for apps. That's a pretty impressive list of additions which I'm sure is what's helping keep the buzz going about the Pre at CES.

Palm was the iPhone of its day. Users were simply in love with their Palm devices, so much so, many still have and use their older Palms today. But Blackberry and Microsoft Mobile came along and arrested the market away from Palm, with most everyone writing off Palm as ever being a dominant player in the market again.

One way to answer those questions is to ask whether Palm Pre has what it takes to be the "must have" phone... enough to cause users to switch from their current carrier in order to get a Palm Pre. Palm's using the same approach as Apple with AT&T and RIM with Verizon, offering the Pre exclusively on Sprint's network. Honestly, I don't hear much good or bad about Sprint's network as compared to the constant drumbeat of complaints about AT&T's reliability and coverage.

I think the Palm Pre will do well, much like the Blackberry Storm has done for its fan base and Verizon customers, but I'm skeptical if the Pre is different enough to convert other network and smartphone device users to move to Sprint to get a Palm Pre. One thing that potentially would drive acceptance is the Pre's keyboard. Heavy texters and typers aren't keen about the iPhone's and Storm's lack of a real keyboard. If the Pre's keyboard turns out to be a stellar keypad and stands up to the heavy typing users' scrutiny, the Pre could become the device of choice for texting and typing power users.   

In a response to a chat message on his video site tonight as to whether the Palm Pre would help Palm make a comeback, Robert Scobleizer answered, "Absolutely Palm is back in the game." Maybe the Palm is but it's hard to see the Pre being the next iPhone killer. Maybe we're destined to break the smartphone market into three, possibly four, camps: Blackberry, Apple, Palm and Microsoft... and maybe newcomer Google Android. I don't necessarily think that would be a bad thing. Competition is healthy, driving companies to innovate and keep prices competitive.

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