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Palm Pins Comeback Hopes On 'Pre' Smartphone

Palm's touch-screen handset has many of the features users expect from a high-end device, but its WebOS could be an important differentiator.

Palm 'Pre' smartphone

Palm 'Pre' smartphone
(click for larger image)

Palm needed to swing for the fences with the unveiling of its new smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday, and the early impressions of its Palm Pre indicate the company has hit a home run.

The Palm Pre is a touch-screen smartphone that has a vertically sliding QWERTY keyboard. It weighs about 4.8 ounces, has an oval-like shape, and is smaller than Apple's iPhone 3G and Research In Motion's BlackBerry Bold. The 3.1-inch screen has a 320-by-480-pixel resolution, has accelerometers that adjust the orientation depending on how a user's holding it, and is capable of multitouch gestures like Apple's smartphone.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the smartphone is the new mobile operating system, dubbed WebOS. Palm said the operating system ties all of a user's Web content into a smooth, finger-friendly user interface. Palm said the platform is built on familiar Web standards like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Ajax. This should make it easy for third-party developers to create applications, and Palm said Internet radio provider Pandora was able to make an app in three days.

One of the appealing new features of this OS is called Synergy, and it aggregates all of a user's information. For example, it can integrate a user's Facebook and Microsoft Outlook contact information into a single contacts list. It can also tie in users' calendars across various platforms into a single interface.

The Pre will come with 8 GB of storage, and it will also have integrated Wi-Fi, 3G connectivity, GPS, and Bluetooth 2.0, and it uses Texas Instruments' OMAP 3430 processor for "laptop-like speeds," Palm said. It will also have a 3-megapixel camera and a full HTML browser, and it's capable of multimedia capabilities.

The handset will be launched exclusively on Sprint in the United States, and it's expected in the first half of the year. Users can preregister at Sprint.com, and the companies didn't mention the price.