In January, at CES, Palm said it would launch its new phone, the Palm Pre, on Sprint in the first half of 2009. The press was a twitter with praise for what looked to be an amazing device, though no one from the public or press (that I’m aware of) was allowed to touch the device. Palm rightfully explained that the device wasn’t quite ready for primetime, and the press seemed content in assuming that good things are worth the wait. Today, at CTIA, several months after Palm’s presentation at CES, the natives are growing increasingly restless. While Palm is allowing demo staff to show the device in action, they’re not letting the press play with it.
Palm still isn’t talking about pricing or a release date. That combined with the hands-off approach at CTIA has got speculators surmising that Palm’s experiencing a development hiccup and others declaring that they’re keeping it under wraps to generate hype. Nick Mokey from Digital Trends says, “Something’s fishy about Palm’s mysteriously uptight demo of the Pre…By barring the Pre from the eyes of unwashed masses in a secure room, putting it up on alligator-skin podiums (literally), and keeping it out of anybody else’s hands, Palm is building hype for this thing unmatched by pretty much anything since the iPhone. And we suspect it’s all strategic.”
I want believe that the Pre is going to be a fantastic phone, though I remain cautiously optimistic. Palm is one of my former clients, and I’ve seen them do great things. It’s been a challenging few years for Palm, which has been navigating its way through OS and organizational changes. I’m hoping the Pre is the ‘Hail Mary’ pass that sees Palm re-emerge as a successful mobile company. I’ve got plenty of reason to be optimistic. After watching a demo, PC World is calling the Pre an “iPhone Killer“. And, other members of the press have expressed similar thoughts.
In this demo footage from CTIA, Palm shows off some of it’s third party apps. The features and apps are certainly impressive. Though, it does appear that the Pre is slow to load, and at one point in the video, the menu view doesn’t properly shift from vertical to horizontal when the device is repositioned. It’s not unusual for pre-release devices to be a bit buggy much slower than production versions. And, who knows whether the device they were demoing with had the latest version of the firmware (which is often time consuming and complicated to load), or whether it was using a version that was slightly older but deemed ‘good enough’ to show. Having seen pre vs. post production devices from Palm in the past, my bet is that they’re waiting until the Pre is rock solid before letting it out into the wild. And, why wouldn’t they? All this speculation is building suspense, which is great for business.