Sprint toes the line on Palm Pre ship date

Sprint goes no further on smartphone's availability than to say it will ship in the first half of the year

Reports circulated on a Palm user forum that the highly anticipated Palm Pre smartphone would be available on Tax Day, April 15, but a spokesman for the Pre's wireless carrier would only say that the device would ship in the first half of the year.

A posting by someone identified as Inittowinit on the Everything Treo forum, claimed that a Sprint Nextel Inc. customer service representative on Saturday said the Pre would be available on Tax Day or the day after, April 15 or 16, and would cost $300 after discounts with a two-year agreement. However, the poster added that the April date seemed too early given the absence of any Palm advertising for the new smartphone.

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Palm officials could not be reached for comment, and a Sprint spokesman would say only that Sprint is sticking with its original statement that the shipping date will be in the first half of 2009.

Other forum contributors cast doubt on the April 15 release, noting Sprint has tended to release phones on Sundays, while April 15 is a Wednesday. Still other contributors said they had also heard separately of the April 15 release.

The potential release date made some sense, however, following Palm's April 1 release of more Palm Pre software details. Included in those details was an announcement that the Palm Pre will run an emulator application called Classic, designed by MotionApps that will allow most of the 30,000 Palm OS applications to run on the Pre's WebOS, the new software created for the Palm Pre and future Palm devices. Neither Palm nor MotionApps released the price of the emulator.

The inability to run old Palm OS apps on WebOS prompted heavy criticism by longtime Palm OS users when the Pre was announced in January. However, Palm officials had said all along that they would allow third parties to provide the emulation capability.

In a demonstration captured on video, Palm product manager Tim Pettitt noted that users of older Palm devices will port applications from a PC to the Palm Pre by connecting a USB cable to both and copying applications into the Classic applications folder on the Pre. The WebOS treats the PalmOS applications as "cards," which is Palm's term for how individual applications or files appear on the Pre interface.

However, Palm OS applications running in Classic won't be able to leverage core WebOS functionality, Palm said in a statement, while adding that Palm is working with partners to make sure that popular Palm OS apps are "optimized to take advantage of everything WebOS has to offer."

The Classic emulator won instant praise from forum contributors. "Honestly, I thought something like this was gonna take 6 months to a year to come out. I have [a] grin from ear to ear," wrote a contributor identified as Lynx.

This story, "Sprint toes the line on Palm Pre ship date " was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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