Palm pre – Is this Palm’s Rocky Balboa moment?

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Palm’s press conference at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas just ended a few minutes ago. Since they originally announced this “New-ness” event, quite a few people have been speculating that their announcement would be underwhelming at best. We’ve been hearing that Palm has been down for the count for months now. As a long time Palm fan and user, I know I’ve grown bored with them over the past couple of years, but I continue to go back to the Treo or Centro time and time again. Their phones (Palm OS) feel like an old friend to me and I couldn’t help but keep my fingers crossed for the past few weeks while I waited like all of you to hear what they would be announcing. Well, I don’t know about all of you, but I’m really excited about the Palm pre (the name is completely lame though…). So long Palm OS and hello Palm webOS!


The phone looks great and I’m so happy that they included a slide out keyboard. Touch screens are great, but I likes me some keys. 🙂 Here are some specs (scraped from other sites since Palm hasn’t updated their own site yet).

  • New TI processor with laptop-like performance
  • EVDO REV. A (Sprint)
  • 3.1 inch 320×480 display
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.0+ (with A2DP profile)
  • GPS
  • 8GB integrated memory
  • 3 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Slide-out QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode
  • Accelerometer, light, and proximity sensors
  • Trackball ala Blackberry

There is no word on pricing yet, but it will be available sometime in the first half of this year (I hope sooner, better than later) and will sell first through Sprint. I was really hoping it would come as unlocked GSM or Verizon first. I would seriously consider jumping ship from AT&T to Verizon for this phone, just from what limited info  I’ve seen so far.

What do you guys think? Is there room for yet another mobile OS? Can Palm webOS compete with ‘old’ Palm OS, Windows Mobile, RIM, iPhone, Android and Symbian? Are you as excited about the Palm pre as I am?

38 thoughts on “Palm pre – Is this Palm’s Rocky Balboa moment?”

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  2. Yes, Julie. I’m pretty excited about this – especially if it will run Palm OS apps. I just switched to the BlackBerry Bold after all these years using Palm, but I’d go back to Palm if I could use my old apps.

    1. @Tom
      Long time no see! 🙂
      I’m guessing that an emulator would be used to run Palm OS apps under webOS. I hope Rob will chime in here…

  3. I am seriously stoked about what this means for handhelds and for Palm. I’m sure it will eventually arrive at Verizon (and since I can’t retire my 755p before next September, the timing will probably work out just fine).

    If the unit is everything it appears to be, it may well marginalize Android and slow Windows Mobile’s growth. By the end of the year the talk on the desktop will be about Windows 7, not anything Microsoft is doing on a mobile basis, and I don’t believe Steve Jobs will change the iphone sufficiently to match Palm’s challenge. For one thing, he doesn’t want the keyboard.


  4. Palm has had the Linux based emulator (which is what webOS was born from) nailed for quite awhile. I can run it on my Nokia 770, and it runs every business app I’ve thrown at it. It does choke on some of the super complex game tho.

    1. @Andrew
      Is the Linux based emu pretty snappy?

      I’ll only worry about the lack of 3G if and when AT&T in my town gets it. We already have EVDO here with Verizon. That’s why I was holding my breath that maybe Palm would go with them this time instead of Sprint.

      Oh that induction charger looks really nice too 🙂

      Which handheld are you using these days?

  5. Bums! I’ve just bought a HP ipaq phone after years of being a Palm user, and I don’t really like it that much. I wonder how much the new palm will be? My only concerns:
    No 3G?
    Battery Life?
    3rd party native support (e.g. Coreplayer etc.)
    Fingers crossed!

  6. Yeah, Julie. I see what you’re up to occasionally, & I’m still a die-hard handheld user, although of thought of using something like an OQO if it had good voice support. My biggest disappointment across the board with all the newer devices is watching them become very consumer-centric & lacking the depth the 3rd-party apps that Palm had in its heydey. I still do most of my business databases on a handheld.

  7. Let me first state freely that I’m a smart phone virgin. With that out of the way, I’ve been patiently sitting on the sidelines watching the slow parade of products and OS’s enter the playing field. I had a Palm III years ago and really enjoyed the product and applications. I definitely perked up when I saw your introduction to this upcoming release. It’s a wait and see for most of us – I currently have Verizon and have been happy with their service. My contract has been up for months, so I’m in a good position to upgrade my phone when the opportunity arises, but I don’t think I’ll jump ship with my provider.
    BTW, here is the link to Palm’s PRE web page:

  8. Palm is back, my friends.

    I think that is all that needs to be said. So far, this looks like a flawless product. I hope hope hope they release an AT&T (or unlocked GSM version) soon after Sprint’s exclusivity period ends.

    Applications written in HTML/Javascript…that alone is enough to say this phone will be the one to beat in 2009. No hard to learn Cocoa/Obj C, a gorgeous product, high-end features, 8GB of memory.

    I want one. How long has it been since I saw a Palm product and said “I WANT ONE!” It’s been since the Tungsten T, at least. I can’t believe it. I honestly can’t believe Palm pulled it off.

  9. For all media & email this looks like a great phone. The one holdover I would prefer from the traditional Palm OS would be local contact/calendar/memo/todo sync in some form or another.

    Perhaps locating all my info in “the cloud” and then sync’ing local devices is the way to go, but there’s still stuff I don’t want to post to Google or whoever.

    Great to see Palm come out fighting!

  10. I think it’s great to see Palm utilizing third-parties for push data, unlike what Apple did. I don’t think MobileMe is worth the $100 a year for most people. Push is overrated, especially at that price.

    Google has great push email, push calendaring, push contacts, etc. For free. The iPhone only supports push email as far as I am aware.

  11. Matt,

    That’s the point I was making. Apple charges you $99 a year for something that Google offers free.

    It would be a different story if the iPhone/iTouch supported push calendar/contacts through Google, but I think the move Apple has made is anti-competitive. Their service is the only one supported, and you’re forbidden to write an app that offers push calendaring or contacts through another service.

  12. I love how people like to point the anti-competitive thing at Apple. I fully admit I’m not 100% familiar with Windows Mobile 6.1, but do any of those phones offer free push contacts/calendars/email or is your only option MS Exchange?

    I for one think it’s great that Apple licensed ActiveSync so that people could use iPhones with their work or hosted exchange services. For me personally, I was already paying for .Mac, so it was a bonus to get the push sync capabilities of MobileMe with the new service, now that the bugs are mostly worked out of it.

    This is coming from someone who ‘grew up’ using Palm devices, I had a Palm III, a Palm V, a LifeDrive and a Treo 680. If palm would have kept up with the times and not let the old OS die on the vine, I’d probably still be a palm user. If my iPhone dies an ugly death, and a GSM version of the pre comes out, I’ll probably swap back to Palm.


  13. What data and apps are on the Pre if you cut if off from the network ? I am thinking of being in a plane for 14 hours. This was an issue for the iPhone back when all third-party apps were Web based but it has been sorted now. It is kind of pointless if you have a smart phone full of interesting apps that don’t work when you put it into aeroplane mode.


  14. Very excited about this Palm new-ness (when was the last time I thought that?)!

    Some clarification:
    3G = 3rd Generation cellular services, which include EVDO on the Sprint and Verizon side and HSDPA/UMTS on the AT&T and T-Mobile side. Let’s get our terms straight here people! The Pre very definitely has 3G, and it’s the faster EVDO Rev A variant.

  15. We used to have a rotund infomericial salesman in Australia, his name was Big Kev. (Poor bastard suddenly dropped dead from a cardiac arrest) His catch was ” I’m excited!!!!”.

    Being a long time Palm fan ( I originally had a Palm Pilot Pro!), having seen the demo videos I feel like I am channeling Big Kev – ” I’m excited!!!).

    One let down is no 3G – needs to be 3G for Australia.

  16. @Michael Murray: My guess is that this is essentially the same as the Apple Dashboard or Yahoo Widgets. Those are basically a combination of a HTML/CSS user interface (without the rest of the overhead it has in a full sized web browser) and a JavaScript interpreter that has extensions to access the whole OS. So if Palm did their job right, you should be able to run stuff without a network connection.

    On this same train of thought, I do wonder whether we’ll see a preponderance of network-required apps, though — with no phoneless PDAs running this, will developers find it easier to ignore offline usability? I hope not.

  17. I’d also like to comment on how easy this will be to develop for. The idea of a HTML/JavaScript environment making it easier to develop for this platform only applies, in my opinion, up to a certain point. It lowers the barrier to entry, but only in the same way that Dashboard and Yahoo Widgets lower the barrier to entry to desktop application programming.

    I’m sure we’ll see a flood of small apps, just like the flood of widgets out there for the desktop. But when it comes to more substantial development, i see no reason to believe that the new Palm OS won’t require just as much effort and commitment as any other platform. It’s just another language, with another UI layer, and it will have just as many platform-specific APIs and quirks as the iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Android.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think building a platform on web technologies is a good idea, especially when you are designing something from scratch like Palm had to. But I think the talk of how much easier it will be is at least 50% marketing — serious mobile developers will decide to develop for the new Palm based on its market share and capabilities, not a factor as relatively minor as what language it uses.

  18. A couple of initial thoughts that ran through my mind:

    “That looks really nice.”

    “Part of me hopes it works really well with the Mac ecosystem.”

    “Wait … they’re calling it the Pre? Pre-what? That makes me want to wait for whatever’s coming next.”

    “They’re touting CSS/HTML/XML as their SDK? Apple tried that and got absolutely skewered by just about everyone. Palm had better get to work on native app functionality quickly.”

    “Ed Colligan needs to get his head out of his the clouds.”

    This final thought occurred to me as I read a reporter’s account of Ed’s reaction to her suggestion that the Pre be priced aggressively against the iPhone. His reply was something along the lines of “why should we do that when we have the superior product?” Bold words for something that hasn’t even launched yet, compared to the most successful smartphone of the past couple of years. Too bold, I think.

  19. Apple got skewered because they copped out at WWDC and said “the web is the SDK!” when everyone was fully expecting a full SDK. They got skewered because the web was the only SDK. There was no way you could write an iPhone app without writing for the web.

    The webOS, at least as I understand it, is it supports web languages as an SDK, but also has it’s own full programming environment using whatever language they choose, probably some variant of C. God I hope it’s not Java.

  20. Yeah, I’m sure there will be some way of writing lower level libraries and such in (probably) C. I actually quite like the idea of a platform with a dynamic, fairly high level language as the primary development layer, although if I was doing it I’d pick something other than JavaScript for that role. (What can I say, I like Python and Ruby.) Still, if they allow it to be extended, and add enough system facilities to it, I’ll live with it.

    (Well, in theory I’ll live with it, anyway… I doubt I’ll have one of these any time soon, since I use AT&T, and also recently ditched my Centro for unusably poor RF performance at my home, so even when they release a GSM version I’ll have to find out how well it works before jumping on it.)

    1. @miles: I am not sure the pre makes the iPhone look outdated, but it sure makes me want one more than an iPhone. The OS (from the screenshots and videos that I’ve seen so far), look very OS X like, which I love.

  21. What…still no graffiti window, and where’s the SD card ?

    I see that it has a camera – and GPS and that’s nice. It also has some other nice features like web access and email. My 8 year old Kyocera 7135 has both, even though I have to carry three batteries if I’m going to use them.

    Overall a fair start. but still disappointing. I want my graffiti window back !!


  22. Three questions:

    1. Does it have on board apps compatible with existing Calendar & Memos data?

    2. Does it have a removable flash card? (My Treo 680 has a 16GB card (almost full) which will be replaced with 32GB as soon as prices come down to something more reasonable.)

    3. Removable battery?


  23. I have an iphone, and would really like to get back to Palm. I miss it’s ease of use, and I developed a loyalty to the company. I look forward to supporting them back to health. Anyone want to buy an iphone?

  24. Julie, on my Nokia 770, every palm app I throw at it, appears to run at the exact same speed as if I ran it on my treo 700p. I ran a benchmark, the benchmark says the emulator is about half the speed as my 700p, but I haven’t noticed a single real life speed difference.

    I just got back from CES, I desperately wanted to play with the Pre, but palm was nowhere to be found. No booth, only an announcement. Very sad day for me. On the bright side the entire Windows 7 display crashed while the sale guy was telling me how much more stable it was then vista.

    1. @Andrew: I think Palm was mostly taking press appointments only. I would have loved to have gone this year and seen it up close and personal. I’ve already decided that if they release a GSM version in Europe the same time as the Sprint version here, I’ll be importing one. As long as it has 850mhz, I’ll be a happy camper.

  25. I am getting burned out on Palm’s incremental improvements and lack of ‘wow’ lately. The relative dearth of new programs and accessories to me reflects the decline of the Palm.

    The Pre MIGHT be the salvation of poor Palm- a new Palm, an iPhone killer, a major increase in public awareness all in one?

    If you score any for reviews, I would love to do a ‘second opinion’ on it- and I even have Sprint! 🙂

  26. The name comes from the legendary Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine, often nicknamed “Pre”. Colligan is a UO graduate…

  27. This phone did tempt me severely. I was holding out for a phone with at least 32 GB on board storage so I could stop carrying an ipod but when I saw this I thought I would be happy with 8 as long as I could put in cards for extra storage. The rest of the phone being so good that I would make an exception. However there is no way to expand storage at all which is a deal breaker I am afraid.

    It has made me rethink my previous plan. I was going to wait for the N97 but now I have seen web OS and been told how the pre uses the latest arm processor which runs at 3 times the speed of the N97 or iphone the N97 no longer seems so attractive. I will keep waiting now, I think the appearance of the pre will cause the industry to really innovate. The coming year should hopefully see some competition for the present leaders in the market.

  28. Update to the comment I just made. After writing it I got all wistful and went to read a few peoples comments on the N97 and almost immediately I found someone who claims that he has been told the N97 will be running the same TI OMAP 3 processor that I think is the one in the pre. Obviously it is just conjecture at this stage as I have also heard other reports that it would be running the same one as the iphone but it gives me hope. Maybe I will be getting a phone this year after all.

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