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, PreCentral.net) 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?