I’m not actually AT CES but I’ve been following it on the blogosphere. The big mobile announcement is of course the Palm Pre. It’s the first device running the long awaited (and twice delayed) Linux based, next generation Palm platform, which is called WebOS rather than Nova. Very iPhonesque in appearance, but with a slide out QWERY keyboard, the Pre features a multi-touch UI. The few people who’ve been allowed to play with it have found the user experience be quite slick and intuitive. There’s address book and calendar integration with Google, Microsoft Exchange and Facebook! and treaded messaging which can show SMS and IM messages in the same thread.
Initially the Pre will be a Sprint exclusive so it’s CDMA/EVDO Rev A. (plus WiFi). Palm has said that there will be a GSM/HSPA version eventually. No details on pricing although Palm’s CEO supposedly suggested that it would be priced the same or even higher than the iPhone. Availability in “The first half of 2009”.
Palm’s survival depends on the Pre’s success. In the last month or so Palm and its boosters have been hinting that this Phone and OS will offer real breakthroughs in innovation and usability. Now that it’s been announced, there doesn’t seem to be anything revolutionary in the form factor or specs (3.1″ 320 x 480 screen, GPS, 8MB RAM, accelerometer, 3.5mm headphone jack). If the Pre is the game changing device Palm needs, the magic will have to be in the software and the user experience. Here’s hoping it is, as a long time Palm user, I’m rooting for them. Don’t know about that name though. “Pre” what?
There has been a lot of Sprint-dissing in some of the blog posts and comments I’ve seen but I don’t thing it’s such a bad thing. Sprint is on shaky ground financially but their 3G network is actually very good, much better in speed, stability and footprint than AT&T’s overloaded and flaky one. The Pre will show well on Sprint. Even if Sprint does fail, someone will acquire their customers, network and nationwide spectrum licenses. CDMA is essential to success in the US (something Symbian has yet to figure out). Of course Palm needs to get a GSM model out within a few months of the initial launch, you can only sell so many phones using technology that only works in North America.
Blogosphere reactions to the Pre are mostly favorable, here are a couple of my favorites on the PRO side:
Palm is innovating again – Fabrizio Capobianco
Palm Pre Preview: Simply Amazing – Gizmodo
Some dissenting opinions:
Further Thoughts on the Palm Pre; Still Doesn’t Look Enough – Ewan Spence
Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? – Om Malik
In other mobile related CES news, Nokia announced three new phones for the US market. The 7510 S40 6th edition clamshell on T-Mobile, a US spec E63 and the 1006, an entry level AWS CDMA candybar.
The E63 is getting the most press thanks to the very attractive list price of $279, unlocked and unbranded. It supports AT&T’s 3G frequencies, but unfortunately NOT T-Mobile’s. I think that was a mistake on Nokia’s part, T-Mobile users have a very limited selection of 3G smartphones, currently just the G1. Nokia could have sold a ton of E63’s to T-Mobile customers if it supported the 3G at 1700 mHz that the carrier uses.
Even the lowly 1006 is significant as it is a real CDMA S40 phone from Nokia in a long time. For the last few years Nokia’s CDMA phones have actually been rebranded Pantech models. It looks like Nokia is reentering the CDMA market. Now how about a CDMA S60?
According to MobileBurn, Nokia has also killed the WiMAX version of it’s N810 tablet, which was just launched four months ago. Seems like a strange move, WiMAX is just getting started and the WiMAX N810’s development costs are already spent. Why kill it now rather than waiting to see if WiMAX makes it. I suspect that the N810 either has some serious, expensive to fix issues or Nokia knows something about WiMAX’s future that we don’t.
Skype launched “Lite” clients for Android and Java ME. Skype Lite uses your mobile data and voice channels not WiFi, so even Skype to Skype calls will not really be free. But it is another way to make cheap international calls and IM’ing shouldn’t cost anything if you have unlimited data. It also means you will be able to answer calls to your Skype number using your mobile for the cost of a local call. However the calling features are only supported in Australia; Rio de Janeiro & Sao Paulo, Brazil; Denmark, Estonia, Finland, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, the United States and the UK. Skype Lite for Android is already in the Android Market. The Java version is also available now for over 100 handsets from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung and Motorola.