TreoCentral at CES: Palm Announces Pre, the "iPhone Slider"

Confession: I'm just leaving Macworld and haven't had a chance to form much of an opinion about the Palm Pre yet (see pics). TreoCentral (and our new baby sibling site, absolutely KILLED it on the first impressions, and make sure you check out the live blog (and congrats to Dieter on the trifecta of Schiller, Balmer, and Colligan all in one week! Superstar!).

The Treo 600 was my first smartphone, the 680 my last before the iPhone, so I have great fondness for Palm despite them leaving me "out in the desert" (TM, TreoCentral TreoCast) for years and years. I want them to succeed, I want them to force the entire industry to keep up the innovation and revolution the iPhone started. I want Steve Jobs and Apple to run back to the drawing board and feel compelled to make the iPhone HD 3.0 even better than they intended.

First blush: I love the organics of the device (the egg-shape does throw me, but that's the only exception and the overall look brings it home) and think cloud-focus and their WebOS platform (which I think is based on Apple's open-source WebKit, same as Safari on iPhone and Chrome on Android) are gutsy moves. Apple uses a hybrid of rich clients and web connectivity and smashes it out the park with Google Maps-style iPhone apps. Palm is running WebOS apps like native WebApps (which should avoid the outcry Apple faced with the original, pre-App Store and SDK iPhone dev solution). If it works Palm could have brilliantly out-maneuvered the whole "they'll never get developers". However, one look at Apple's focus on gaming shows the power of the rich local client -- is AJAX enough to run iPhone caliber gaming and other really hard hitting applications? I guess we'll see. We'll also see how they nail multitasking better than any previous OS, according to Dieter, when part 2 of TreoCentral's first impressions go online later.

On the negative side, for me (the anti-Dieter in some ways), I still think the era of hard keyboards is over, and dislike the moving parts of a slider all the more after the round robin (even portrait ones). That's just personal taste. The capacitive touch screen with gesture area looks solid, though I have to wonder if Apple's lawyers will rev up the multitouch patent files?

Apple's rivalry with the new Palm will be telling for political reasons as well. Those who remember the history know that the new guru behind Palm's new hotness is the old Guru behind Apple's old hotness, the iPod. He reportedly really wanted a hard keyboard on the iPhone, and Jobs skidoosh'ed it. (Which is why I jokingly called it the "iPhone Slider". I guess we'll see, however, over the next few months if Rubinstein remains but the learner, or if he is now the master.

Enough of my thoughts, iPhone lovers -- especially former Palm faithful -- what do you think?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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TreoCentral at CES: Palm Announces Pre, the "iPhone Slider"


I think it will sell. It looks like a pretty hot phone from here... there's a lot of hardware innovation in this.
I do hate how palm always puts sprint first; lack of a GSM precludes me from buying one. Hopefully by the end of the year.
It looks like there is finally real competition with the iPhone. Dieter and I have talked about the importance of a post-iPhone product launch, and how Android fell very short of what we had hoped for, how Google had really released something partial.
This probably won't perform some of the high-end functions that an iPhone performs, but the iPhone still has some glaring omissions that Palm has nailed before... time to watch more videos.

I really feel putting Sprint first is the biggest mistake Palm is making here. Just a overall bad move. At least in my opinion. And another thing is this phone should be out now. Not this summer. By then Apple will have a new iPhone, Blackberry will have something new, HTC, etc... Again, just my opinion.
Another factor that will fall into play - price...

Well it looks like Palm did what Apple didn't this time: Provide us with some innovation. Apple couldn't even announce a word processor or a spreadsheet or cut-and-paste for goodness sake! We (I) need some business apps and Apple gives us a slide show..... Let them eat cake.....

Probably two important factors to how well it goes:
1) They haven't announced pricing as far as I know, and that will be the clincher. They need to pitch it at half the price of the iPhone to make it easy for people.
2) You'd assume HTC will come out with their own slick Android phone that may not look too different to this. Pre would want to have a good foothold before that arrives.
It's certainly looks pretty nice though. I can't think of any company that's ever faced more of a 'moment of truth' than Palm did today. Any middle of the road showing would have basically finished the company. Nice response.

I am going to respond only having seen pictures and some specs. Palm, as expected, came out with a credible effort and something truly unique. What I'm trying to figure out is the market that they are after. RIM has the people who want Uber-communication in all forms - phone, email, text. Android seems to be after the Google install base. Apple has taken music lovers from CD's to digital music and from one device to a converged device with the Internet delivered as it appears on the desktop.
Palm seems to be after people who have their data scattered across the Internet. While I am sure that there are a lot of folks who wish to manage all of this content I'm not so sure what the size of this market is. Also, is anyone who has 10,000 people on their facebook account really need all of these data points as contacts on their phone?
With that said I thing that Palm is ahead of the pack with the concept and I like the execution even if I don't like the physical keyboard (that's just my point of view- not everyones). I'm hoping to find more when I have time because like Rene I was a Palm/Handspring customer since the original Palm Pilot and I want them around to keep innovating integrated simplicity into handsets.

I remember using the Palm Pilot back in the mid 90s and multiple Palm pda's afterward. I remember thinking in 2003 about how it would be great if Palm could come out with a pda + phone combination and then lo and behold the Treo 600. I was ecstatic that Palm was innovative and revolutionary. I subsequently used a 650 and followed by the 680. But after awhile Palm was producing the same old platform including in my opinion the lackluster WinMobile. I finally made the switch to the Iphone and I think it is truly what a smartphone should be (even if it does not have cut/past). The Palm Pre may look like a winner and I do sincerely rooting for Palm to succeed, but at the end of the day, just like every other smartphones that came after the is still another iclone.

I am a former Treo 650 owner, now iPhone 3G owner, and I think that the Palm Pre looks awesome.
I really want one, but I am only 6 months into a 2 year contract so will not sign up for another contract, so in order for me to get one, Palm need to sell it outright and unlocked. If they do that then I will be queuing up on release day here in Australia.
BTW, I am beginning development for the iPhone so I would be holding onto my iPhone as well, and then likely develop for both devices.

I love it's versatile international keyboard. What is that, English and uhh... uhh?... oooh, sorry.

Wow, Steve seems kinda bitter. Maybe it's Steve Jobs? If so, get well soon Steve.
But seriously, I hope this is great. I loved my Treo 600 and then 650 but the iPhone 3G was the coolest phone I'd owned by three miles and kicks my Sony Xperia's @ss.
But y'know what? I still have my Treo 650 as a backup phone and I still kinda like the simplicity of the Palm OS. I SO hope Palm don't release something hugely buggy and semi-finished - that's my only concern. Good luck Palm!

If this is as easy to use as PalmOS, and has snappy performance it should be great!
I agree that hardware keyboards will to away in the long run, but clearly a new touch only device seems possible with this system.
If this had been "average", Palm was in big trouble. This has the potential to be outstanding.
Html apps sucks, but it is probably the best choice in Palms current situation.

I beg to differ. Many other platforms 're-invent' themselves to mimick the smooth scrolling interface and useability of the iPhone, without having a personality or uniqueness about themselves. Google was way to open to have a personality or even identity.
This webOS, however, has picked on the consolidation of everything we have on the web. Imagine how accessible everything will become because of this. In fact, it is hard not to think all other OSes will have to follow suit somehow or other in the future.
For now, I think Palm has hit the nail somewhere and created a unique product. Now it will depend how how well they can make it resonate in the market.

Sorry, just had to add 2 cents about the hardware. It has to be way better than this. Right now it looks like a sad little bastard child of Creative and Samsung. Their direction for size is soooo yesteryear. Small is no longer in. We need big screens.

I had a treo 750 and was not Shure about iphone, but I got an iPhone 3g now and there is no comparison, what ever others may make, will not beat iPhone period. (I was a treo user for a long time and always wanted to have the best, now I do...) if you can't beat apple join them.

While I can't see Palm competing anytime soon with Apple in supplying media content and agree we'll just have to wait and see how good the apps can be and whether anyone will bother to make any, it does look very, very sweet so far. I'm liking the design of the UI, its speed, and the hardware design especially. Back to Palm for me? Maybe!

I moved from a Treo 650 to the iPhone 3G. I miss the 'flow' of the palmOS and the easy synch with my corporate Windows account. I love the iPhone's safari browser and the 3G speed. The pre looks like the perfect combination of the best features of both these phones.

Here is the kicker: IT CHARGES WIRELESSLY!! u gotta give them credit for that if not anything else

"the era of hard keyboards is over"
LMFAO - I work in an office with several hundred keyboards that are not going away anytime soon. Touch screen keyboards arent new. I had some Palm or Sony device in 2003 that was touch/stylus enabled and I ran over it with my car.
Apple has done a better job with it but as you said in your review, if I had to compose 100 emails a day on my handheld, a blackberry would do it better. Thats why I think the choice Palm gave us is a shot at offering both. I'm not a fan of sliding or moving pieces either though. Depends on your needs.

Second thought. Only 8 GB and no expansion slot? If that's so, it's really not enough. In fact, the 16 GB on my current iPhone really isn't enough either.
The Pre will be competing with the next gen iPhone, which will probably have 4x its storage capacity. Ah well, perhaps they'll up the spec for the GSM version? It fails as a multimedia device for me until they do.

this thing is killing me. I've had a palm since I was a Sophmore in High School. (until my T|X died 4 months ago.) I loved having my palm pilot. I just wish Palm something well in the market. This pre-phone is like a pre-misconception, it's just not going to work out.

@Steve jobs: I agree that hard keyboards aren't going away. I'm sure plenty of losers will keep making them.
@Ken Williams: Why would I be bitter? I have the iPhone. :shock:
But thanks for the kind words... I wish you well also, and hope you enjoy your Casio... or, uh... Palm, or whatever it is... :lol:

People concerned with the pricing... this is from Gizmodo:
"When Peter Kafka asked if the Palm Pre's price would be less than the iPhone's $199, Palm CEO Ed Colligan replied, "Why would we do that when we have a significantly better product?"
That is a very bold statement. Considering this device will more than likely be released around the time a new iPhone is about to it... Next Gen iPhone will smash this thing like nobody's business.
I really think this device looks cool but... it should have been out this past fall. Little to late Palm.

yeah i totally agee... the spec for this phone are fine for now but if they wait until 6 months ago and dont beef up the phone before release.... like how can the "pre" compete with the next gen iphone.... this thing should have come out last fall... i think waiting untill poss june is way to late to make a dent

@Steve: you use a touchscreen on your home computer? If they are superior to hard keyboards, then why not get that HP touch computer?
Funny how everyone loves their iPhone so much that they cant wait to get the new one in a few months. Forcing you to spend $500 so you can get cut and paste. LMAO

Looks awesome! I'm a blackberry user, tried the iphone and trashed because the touchscreen just couldn't enable the kind of fast, intuitive typing one needs to write dozens of emails a day. Even though I'm also not a big fan of sliding parts, it just seems to be the only option to provide the nice functionality of a touchscreen and the simple typing of a keyboard. This phone really could do the trick for me and I bet many other blackberry users.

I never had a palm my last phone was a mugul 6900 which is made by HTC. This looks nice(not as sharp as iphone) but I would have to see it in action. I personally prefer hand touch but this looks like a good alt for people who don't. This looks like it could be good competition for APPLE which is always a good thing!

@Steve Jobs: HP? :lol: Sorry... I don't use junk. I've been Apple only for twenty years. I wouldn't touch anything else because I have work to do.

I agree, HP is wack. And i'm sure your macbook / imac or whatever still has a hard keyboard even though you claim touchscreen is far superior. People actually work on their desktop/laptops so a physical keyboard is required. Not for work = no keyboard = iphone.
iphone = for play = touch screen = iFart apps

@Steve Jobs: Uhhh... this topic is about PHONE keyboards. Try to follow along.
I have no games, nor do I ever use the iPod or You Tube apps... I'm not a child. Since, however, I DO use the Phone, Mail, Safari, GPS, IM, Contacts, Calendar, PayPal, and FTP apps for business... your math is not only incorrect, but embarrassing.
Enjoy your Red Rider BB Phone. :lol:

so you have to be a child to use an Ipod thats silliest thing I've ever read. I use my Ipod to work out all the time theres nothing childish about that.

That was meant more toward the "games" than anything else (although I'm usually flamed for that opinion, too). What can I say, I wrote it quickly. I have to stay on top of these morons who think the iPhone isn't adequate for business.

if that is what you bought an iphone for, you are a complete idiot.
clearly i doubt what you say is true and you're prob just a fanboy

Its a nice looking device. I think they will put it out with little to no problems. They have had WAYYYY more than enough time to come up with a new phone and new OS.

Good move to go with Sprint. Many people have not left for AT&T and this gives the large customer base something to use (other than the lackluster Instinct) that allows for some additional apps. If they went GSM to start they would be head-to-head with the iPhone. This gives them a good start.

great phone. real competition for the iphone...had a treo (crashes a lot and buggy) so the big issue to me is how stable the UI will be.
The main features it has are features the iphone should have but doesn't. you can open multiple apps at once and scroll through them easily (its like opening multiple windows in safari but instead its different apps), copy and paste, push notifications, and mms.

i think it will sell people on sprint will jump on it but i dont think it will challenge the iphone or the android phones. The iphone is so well established with its massive following and the fact that the ipod touch exists so young kids that have the touch will probably get an iphone one day. The pre will be a fresh start for palm looks nice but might be too complicated. I see a lot of middle aged and older people walkin around nyc with their iphones most of those people probably would have a hard time messing around with all those gestures from the pre.

I too was a true Treo fan. I also started with the Treo 600, then the Treo 680 and stayed with it even after the first iPhone came out. I have alot of good memories with Treo, but decided to give the iPhone 3G a chance. Although I truly love the iPhone, it's not without it's shortcomings. I always felt like this is a great phone, but it's just lacking the small things to make it great. Now with the Palm Pre... without actually using it... I'm very curious. Just from the looks I would really consider switching. If the Palm Pre actually had a SD card slot, I would switch for sure.