The truth shall set you Pre

Palm's Pre will finally debut this weekend. Apple, BlackBerry, and Google all have spiffy new smartphone tech in the works. Handset-to-handset combat is about to commence.

In case you've been in a coma and missed the news, the Palm Pre officially goes on sale tomorrow (that's Saturday, June 6, 2009 AD). And while it hasn't exactly reached the level of iPhone mania, the Pre is easily the second most important product launch of the last several years.

(Sorry Amazon, the Kindle isn't even in the top five. Google? Android was OK, I guess. But I've been using the G1 for a few months now, and I can't say the earth has ever moved for me.)

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You've got to give credit to Palm for manipulating coverage of the Pre with near-Jobsian flair. Allowing a cadre of hand-picked reviewers (aka the usual subjects -- Mossberg, Pogue, Baig, etc.) to help pump up the hype a few days early now seems a masterstroke, given how positive they've been. The New York Times' Pogue virtually wets himself with joy:

"The Pre, which goes on sale Saturday, is an elegant, joyous, multitouch smartphone; it's the iPhone remixed. ...The Pre is a spectacular achievement. Zero to 60 in one version. "

Even Mossberg, aka Billy Goat Gruff, calls the Pre "beautiful, innovative, and versatile." The downsides? Few apps to speak of, and the battery life apparently sucks hard. But overall, it's chocolates and butterfly kisses for Palm.

Another brilliant stroke: limiting supplies, making the Pre seem like a hot ticket, even if it isn't.

Photos of the first scruffy line squatter were posted by Jason Wilk's TinyComb news site last Monday (though whether the squatter in question was lining up to buy a Pre or merely sleeping off a Mad Dog 20 20 bender is debatable). A less-than-rock-solid source, commenting on the photo, added:

Hey All. I'm actually friends with the guy waiting in line. His name is Jonatan. I called him when I saw this and he assured me that he's going to wait the couple of days for this phone, he's super crazy about it! I can even quote him saying "I don't care how many times I poo and pee my pants, I'm getting this phone!"

Let's hope they hose him down before they let him in the store, eh?

Other professional line-sitters are offering their services on craigslist for $100 a pop. (Unless they're advertising in the Adult Services section, in which case the services are a tad more elaborate and expensive.)

Obviously there's more at work here than just another cool smartphone. People (especially tech journalists) are rooting for Palm to get back in the game. Part of it is a natural desire to root for the underdog, part of it is remembering how cool and innovative Palm products used to be -- and longing for them to be that way again. Call it nostalgia.

As a longtime Palm fan, I'm rooting for them, too. One more good smartphone in the market means more pressure on Apple to keep innovating, and less room for Microsoft to spoil the party by using its muscle to force shoddy Windows Mobile handsets onto the buying public. May the best handset win.

Is the Pre a contender? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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