With the Palm Pre, is Palm back in the game?

The Palm Pre won't ship for months, but it may be the closest thing to an iPhone with a keyboard yet

I've just read 37 posts about the new Palm Pre in 48 hours -- everything from the "wow, look at Palm!" posts (followed by the usual "will Palm survive?" speculation and nattering about market share), to posts noting that Palm hasn't updated its Web site, to multiple comparisons with the iPhone and G1 and BlackBerry Storm. I've read raves about the fluidity of the UI and taken in live keynote coverage. There are even pictures of the packaging.

I'm in danger of contracting Pre fatigue syndrome before I actually get my hands on one. Maybe if I just unload all the information I've learned I'll feel better:

[ Want to find out more about next-gen mobile devices? Check out the slideshow of InfoWorld's guided tour ]

• The specs: a 3.1-inch screen with 320-by-480 resolution. The 4.8-ounce unit has an accelerometer to switch the display from vertical to horizontal. The touchscreen also supports gestures, so you can brush a finger over the Pre to clear a file or app and pinch to zoom in and out. There is also a QWERTY keyboard, support for EvDO Rev A, 8GB of built-in storage, a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash, Bluetooth with stereo support, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi.

• Everyone is impressed with the UI of the WebOS operating system, which is based on WebKit. It is said to be a redesign from the ground up, and McNulty has pointed out that the more users WebKit has, the more Web sites will be designed to work with it. WebOS can integrate several services using Synergy, a technology integrates data from Outlook, Google, and Facebook to provide a universal address book and a unified calendar. It also automatically updates changes to those cloud sites. New text messages and calendar appointments appear as pop-ups on the bottom of the screen so you can keep working instead of being forced to respond. Also, support for Exchange ActiveSync protocol is included, so it starts off enterprise-friendly. Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse, has said that he likes the way he can speak on the phone and check the calendar at the same time. Others are excited about the "cards" -- windows for applications and tasks -- and how well organized they are the screen.

• The Palm Pre will be available through Sprint, but there is no word on pricing (just rumors) or on the monthly plan. The Pre will be coming to both the United States and Europe in the first half of the year.

• There will be an app store. Initial reports are that it (surprise, suprise) resemble Apple's, but other details are lacking.

• There is no visual voice mail, and there is no memory card slot.

• The battery can be removed (a bonus the iPhone sorely lacks), and it has a wireless charger called the Touchstone, which is raising eyebrows.

Based on hearsay alone, the Palm Pre looks like one hot little unit. (But then, so did the BlackBerry Storm.) More details to follow.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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