The Centro offers "the power of a broadband smartphone at the price of a standard 12-key phone," said Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, at the debut press conference. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no question that this device could open up smartphone-style browsing and mobile e-mail to an entire new class of consumers. That's an overdue move.
It's no accident that Palm, swiftly slipping behind its larger and more innovative rivals, and Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier, have teamed on the Centro. Marketing breakthroughs often come from companies playing catch-up.
I think it'll sell steadily if not spectacularly, and I think it gives Palm, whose Treo line of smartphones retains a fiercely loyal if dwindling corps of enterprise users, a whole new market niche.
P.S. Eric's post is worth re-reading for the argument played out in the comments, which provides a snapshot of the creaky oligopoly that still prevails in the U.S. wireless carrier market.