CES Day 3 – Palm Pre Demo

Posted: January 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

I was able to visit Palm’s “private” lounge and get my hands on their new Pre (with a bar over the “e”) phone. This new phone runs on Linux instead of PalmOS, a derivation Palm is calling WebOS. It doesn’t sync with your computer. No, it syncs with “any” computer with data you need. The cool part is it supports multiple calendars, something sorely missing for many executives looking for a phone.

There were limited technical details at the demo. Asking software development kit questions, I was met with “we’re not disclosing that level of technical information at this time.” Come to think of it, that was often the case when delving deeper. No matter, this is a sweet phone.

I have uploaded a video of the demo, given by Peter Skillman, Palm’s Vice President of Design. You’ll be able to learn a lot just by watching, so go do that already!

Demo of the Palm Pre Smart Phone, shown at Palm’s private lounge at CES 2009

Details I gleamed, and there’s more on Palm’s web site:

  • Available first half of 2009, initially a Sprint exclusive.
  • 8 GB built-in flash, non-expandable.
  • Way cool conductive charger – just lie the Palm on the thing and it starts charging. No fidgeting around with power cables. From what I can tell, this is an accessory, but I hope they decide to include it.
  • Wireless sync. 802.11 b/g. GPS.
  • Multi-touch right out of the box. Hey, Google, ever gonna get multi-touch running on Android?
  • No legacy Palm application support, although Peter said Palm wouldn’t have any problem with someone writing an emulator. He was mum on any SDK, using the line I mentioned above, although he said Palm is working with developers to transition their code.
  • The box is beautiful – nice angles and the legal docs are hidden on the bottom, under plastic, “where they should be” according to Peter.
  • 320×240 display. Hmm, a bit low res for a modern smartphone.
  • 135 grams.
  • 3.1 megapixel camera with software auto-focus. No word on video support.
  • Apps don’t appear to “sleep”. They keep running in the interface, updating little widget versions of themselves. Peter said they have patents pending for dealing with the obvious drain on battery life this type of feature has. When I asked if it was effective, I was met with a stern look. I hope it works well – this is a nice looking phone with lots of design wins – more on that in a moment – but it wouldn’t be good if it dies early just to have a pretty interface. Remember, Palm, at the end of the day, it’s a phone!
  • This is cute: The sliding back of the phone is a mirror. Yes, the entire sliding back. No more half-dime-sized mirror. Cool.
  • I didn’t see him use the stylus once.
  • Yes, there’s a USB port.
  • There was some info like "HTML for content, Javascript for functionality, CSS for format" – I don’t know if that was for development.
  • I didn’t ask about third party accessories.
  • Bottom of charger is micro suction cups that apparently don’t get gunked up by dust and so forth. Stick it to anything. Peter says "it’s like gecko feet.”
  • It was hard to get Peter to let me hold the device. I finally did, but could only hold it a little and not move it. It felt good in the hands.
  • No, they did not get rid of the awesome vibrate on/off switch at the top. Thank you, Palm.
  • Peter was very proud of their industrial design.

Below is a photo album of the Pre, so click it to see the full size photos.

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