Sometimes, a Hail Mary pass works.
Palm once ruled the mobile digital roost during the era of the PDA, and remained there for a long time, even in the early days of the smart phone with their Treo devices. Part of the popularity had to do with the “Zen of Palm”, which is a philosophy for user friendliness which the company has held onto since day one.
Over the past 3 years or so, they fell off that perch, first with corporate customers when their aging OS couldn’t keep up with multi-tasking demands, then later with consumers, even before the iPhone expanded the idea of a smart phone from a geek & business user market into the consumer realm. That combined with an every shuffling corporate structure defocused the company leading to a continuous bleed off of customers.
Today Palm announced their new Palm web OS, along with the first phone to run it, the Palm Pre. Off the top, hardware wise it’s hard to get an idea of the size of the device without a comparison shot, so I’ve comped together some devices, based on screen size, to illustrate…
(click image for larger version)
On the hardware front, the Pre is a very slick device. The form factor looks very much like an HTC Touch but with a portrait slide out QWERTY keypad, about the size of a Centros. The 320 x 480 screen is 3.1″, which strikes me as the perfect balance between the slightly small average WM screen (2.8″) and the slightly too big for 1 handed use iPhone screen (3.5″).
It includes an accelerometer and built in GPS, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth stereo, camera and all the other bullet points expected in a modern smart phone.
The screen is multi-touch, and the touching actually extends below the waist (er I mean screen), much like the HTC Diamond, so the user can perform gestures without actually blocking their view of the data. For example, the user can hold one finger in the “gesture area” and use a second to copy text, and pop up an edit box that will allow copying, pasting etc. The physical keyboard will also boast some additional navigation abilities, and merely typing something out on it will perform a Spotlight like search of contacts, files, events etc.
Online videos and reports can’t trump a real hands on, but it appears Palm took the best parts from all the current smart phone OSes out there, gave this mash up the “Zen Of Palm” treatment and made something that WILL occupy what they call the “fat middle” between corporate and consumer smartphone needs/wants.
The Palm Pre will be able to draw from OTA Exchange as well as web and consumer based contact and calendar lists, without the need to do any kind of voodoo to amalgamate this stuff. As anyone who has looked for some kind of truly easy solution can tell you, Palm’s implementation of NOT unifying the source data, but presenting it as such, presuming it works as advertised.
The Pre is due out in the first half of this year on Sprint in the US, which suggests that either Telus or Bell will be the first Canadian carrier to get it.
From what I’ve seen of the CES presentation, this is the “Zen Of Palm” long time Palm users have been waiting for. Apparently I’m not the only one, as the company saw a 35% spike in stock prices.