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12/16/2009
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Top 10 Smartphone Advances Of 2009

As smartphones further cemented their place in the enterprise, Apple, Motorola, Google Android, and RIM Blackberry vied for the spotlight.




Palm Pre Smartphone
(click for image gallery)

Microsoft's mobile OS is facing some stiff challenges though, as the enterprise space is clearly dominated by RIM, and Windows Mobile has not caught on with the mainstream users like the iPhone has. Motorola has also shunned the current version of Windows Mobile in favor of Android, and there's concern that other handset makers may follow suit.

Microsoft does have a strong community of developers in its favor, and the company is committed to developing and improving its mobile platform. However, some analysts believe it will not be able to make a significant turnaround until Windows Mobile 7, which is expected to be released in the second half of 2010.

7. Palm Becomes Relevant Again, Kind Of

Not too long ago, Palm owned the U.S. smartphone space, but as 2009 started the company was struggling mightily. While it still sold millions of Palm Centro handsets, RIM and Apple were handily outselling it in the high-end smartphone space. Expectations weren't very high when Palm said it would announce a new OS and smartphone during January's Consumer Electronics Show, but the company wowed the press with the introduction of webOS and the Palm Pre.

"Wow," said Ryan Block of gdgt.com after CES. "Well, that was kind of amazing, and I don't say that very often. Yes, we are lacking a LOT of really important details, but there's little doubt that Palm is back in a big way, and that this OS and device has the potential to make up for many of their missteps over the last five years."

The Pre, released about six months later, was met with solid reviews, but failed to produce blockbuster sales numbers. The rival iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS each sold over one million units in their opening weekends, and most analysts predict the Pre won't hit those numbers by the end of the year. Palm recently released a GSM version of the Pre for the European markets, and this should help goose sales.

The second webOS smartphone, the Pixi, was also released exclusively on Sprint in November, and the $100 device should be appealing to teenagers and first-time smartphone buyers.

But the smartphone space is increasingly being dominated by deep-pocketed rivals, and some analysts worry if Palm will have the resources to compete. For example, rival RIM also primarily makes smartphones, but it has nearly eight times the number of employees and significantly more revenue.

Palm has laid its bets on webOS, and CEO Jon Rubinstein has said the company is preparing multiple devices that should eventually get on more U.S. carriers. Palm's size also means it can be profitable even if it only manages to carve out a relatively small piece of the growing smartphone market.

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