updated 03:10 pm EST, Thu January 8, 2009
Palm PRE at CES
Palm at CES launched the Pre (pronounced "pree"), its latest smartphone featuring a touchscreen and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The device runs on the new webOS operating system which supports third-party app development and takes advantage of the touch interface. It also pushes the high-end of smartphones with a 3-megapixel camera, EVDO Rev. A, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, 8GB of storage and a new TI processor that offers notebook-level performance. The 3.1-inch touchscreen offers a 480x320 resolution, while a separate gesture area below the screen is used for several controls in addition to a center button.
The QWERTY keyboard slides out of the bottom rather than the side, making the device slightly thicker in proportion but overall smaller than other smartphones and more comfortable to use in its normal upright mode. When the keyboard is extended, the handset takes on a slightly curved form. Ports include a 3.5mm headphone jack along with a MicroUSB connection that supports mass storage. A unique inductive charger, known as the Touchstone, lets the phone charge without having to plug into a computer or wall outlet.
A new concept known as Synergy unifies searches across multiple address books, while the keyboard can be used to start searches in place of visual browsing. IM is just as consolidated and puts multiple networks into a single client, while integration with Facebook adds a social networking component.
Palm intends to release the first version of the Pre through Sprint in the first half of the year, with pricing to be set later. No mention has yet been made of a GSM version that would support AT&T or most international carriers, though the company is expected to launch multiple webOS phones this year.
The Pre is considered entirely vital to Palm, which has had to endure mounting losses and was recently given a $100 million aid to prevent it from running out of money. The company sold roughly 600,000 phones in its most recent quarter and is commonly believed to be one of the primary victims of the iPhone as Treo owners switch to the more modern device.
Palm has maintained that it can restore its fortunes through its new platform and as part of its development efforts hired former Apple engineer and executive Jon Rubinstein, who is widely credited with reinvigorating Palm's hardware design.