Palm unveils new smartphone, operating system
Palm Inc. unveiled a new touch-screen smartphone and operating system Thursday, marking its latest attempt to catch up with competition from Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Palm executives touted their Pre, which looks similar to the iPhone, with a face dominated mostly by an eight centimetre touch screen and single button. The body of the Pre is black and slightly curved, with a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom.
In an effort to capture both business and consumer users, the Pre will come loaded with features including Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth and GPS, as well as 8 GB of storage space, a three-megapixel camera and music and video playback. The Pre also has a variety of sensors, such as an accelerometer so images on the screen will rotate when a user turns the device on its side.
Many of these features are already available on rival phones, including the iPhone, the latest BlackBerry models and HTC Corp.'s G1 that was released in the fall by T-Mobile and Google Inc. Palm has been overshadowed in the last several years by the success of these products — especially by the growth of BlackBerry smartphones among business customers and, since its June 2007 release, of iPhones among consumer users.
According to data from comScore Inc., as of October, Palm devices accounted for about 15.6 per cent of the U.S. smartphone market. Some of Palm's smartphones run on its own operating system, while others use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile operating system.
Palm, a pioneer in the market for handheld digital assistants, now hopes its latest offering can stand out.
"We think it's the one phone you can use for your entire life and you'll really enjoy using it," Palm chief executive Ed Colligan said at a news conference.
The Pre will be available in the second half of the year, exclusively on Sprint Nextel Corp.'s wireless network. Palm did not disclose the price.
The device comes with Palm's new operating system, Palm webOS, which the company also debuted Thursday. It is meant to connect various applications — for example, it will automatically synchronize contacts stored in Facebook, Gmail and Outlook, strip out duplicates and present the information in a master list.
Applications developed for Palm's older operating system will not work on the new platform, Colligan said in an interview.
Palm has been working on the new phone and operating system for "more than a couple years," Colligan said, and they represent "a complete reinvigoration of the company."
"We're really relaunching Palm to some extent," he said.
In addition to the Pre and the new operating system, Palm showed off a unique accessory on Thursday — a wireless charger for the Pre called the Touchstone. When a Pre is placed on top of it, the gadget powers the phone through induction.