Moribund Palm, in danger of becoming just a Windows Mobile running dog with lackluster handhelds, seems to have scored with its introduction this week of the Palm Pre 3G smartphone, powered by the new webOS operating system. But how does it stack up against Apple's iPhone?
For the Pre, Palm created a more capable Web browser than its previous offerings. And the company seems to have designed the phone to be smoothly and deeply integrated with the Web sites, data and applications mobile users increasingly rely upon.
Overall, the Pre seems to be a match for the iPhone in many areas. The question is whether Palm's Web integration focus represents a “user experience” advance that can draw and hold end users.
“It's not an iPhone killer, nor a BlackBerry killer, but it doesn't need to be,” says Avi Greengart, research director, mobile devices, for Current Analysis, who spent about an hour actually using a Pre. “It builds on Palm's heritage of building the best personal information management devices. And they're extending this beyond a single data store, to all the places [on the Web] where you have information, like LinkedIn or seven different e-mail accounts.”
The Pre's new operating system is the basis of a user interface that matches the high standard set by Apple's iPhone, according to Greengart. “They didn't take an existing mobile OS and [rework it to] make it touchable,” he says. “They designed it from the ground up knowing that you'd be using a finger. They did a very good job with the UI.”
The phone and software were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Palm Pre (pronounced “pree”) is due out by mid-2009 exclusively via Sprint, which has not yet released pricing for the phone.
Several things stand out about the Pre, based on the live demos and reactions by bloggers and pundits.