The Palm Pre, supposed iPhone killer, is set to launch June 6 in the U.S., at post-rebate $199.99, and will only be available through Sprint, Palm said. Now the big question: Will this be enough to restore Palm's badly damaged reputation and, more importantly, give the iPhone a run for its market share?
There is a lot to like about the Pre, from its multitasking operating system to tight coupling to its users' social networking contacts. The "gesture area" at the bottom of the screen, harking back to the Palm Pilots of old, may be less of a win. It will, however, seem familiar to millions who haven't considered a Palm product in the past 5 years or longer.
Developer of the modern personal digital assistant and an early player in smartphones, Palm suffered an incredible fall from grace when the PDA market imploded at the start of the smartphone era. New investors and management developed the Pre with the idea of giving the iPhone and BlackBerry serious competition.
The exclusive carrier, Sprint, has likewise been left out in the cold of late and must see the Pre as its potential redemption, too.
Will the strategy work?
We won't know until Apple brings out what is rumored (and presumed) to be a new line of iPhones this summer. The Pre's launch timing is set to beat Apple to the punch by two days if Apple plans to introduce its new iPhones at the start of its developer conference on June 8.
My guess had been that new iPhones would be announced after the conference, but the Palm Pre hype may be too much for Apple to ignore.
The Pre's $199.99 launch price requires the usual two-year contract. The company will also be offering a wireless charger for an additional $69.99.
For immediate sales, the pricing of service plans may be an incentive for new customers to choose one smartphone over another, but longer term, applications will become important. With the huge number of applications available for the iPhone, Apple enjoys the leadership that Palm once had.
The big question will soon be whether Palm can recover and if there is room for another big player in the smartphone market. The smartphone world, previously divided into CrackBerry people and iPhone people, is about to become more crowded. In a welcome sort of way.