Friday, March 13, 2009

Notes from the Palm/Sprint Pre Event










Yesterday afternoon I attended Palm and Sprint's Pre event. The following are my notes from the presentation which featured David Owens, Director of Consumer Acquisition for Sprint, and Matt Crowley, Product Line Manager at Palm.

The show's host was quick to clear the air about the Palm Pre's availability date and pricing; that information was not going to be discussed on this webcast.













Some of Sprint's customers are too young to remember the Treo 300?! Zoinks! A statement like that tells me that Sprint and Palm are going to targeting teens with the Pre. Or, more accurately, the paying parents of teens. If customers want to enjoy the full benefits of the Pre's capabilities, subscribing to a Sprint Simply Everything plan is recommended.

Sprint also indicated that not all of their service plans will be available for the Palm Pre. Expect Sprint to offer the Individual, Family, and Business Simply Everything plans which start at $99.99 a month with the Palm Pre.

Sprint will also be encouraging their customers to partcipate in their Ready Now program. If you are not familiar with Ready Now, I wasn't until I watched the webcast and I'm a Sprint customer, it is a program where you can work with a sales associate one-on-one to select your phone, set it up, and then have them teach you how to use it. This may seem like a waste of time for smartphone fanatics like us, but there is a huge pool of customers who find "PDAs" too complex. 20% was tossed out as the generic industry number for the return rate for PDA smartphones. This return rate was mentioned because most people find smartphones too complicated and don't want to read a 267 page user guide.

The Palm Pre Smartphone

When the Palm Pre was developed, it was designed with a polished river stone in mind. There are no sharp edges on the Pre. Everthing is rounded.











Contact information can come from Google, corporate Exchange servers via Exchange ActiveSync, or Facebook for example. Palm's Crowley did indicate that data was stored in a local database on the Pre. That should be good news for people who are worried about losing access to their PIM data when the phone is off or when they are in a wireless coverage dead zone.













The Synergy data synchronization engine works with email, calendar, and the address book. There was no update as to how the Pre will sync with Microsoft Outlook on a PC desktop computer or how customers will be able to migrate data out of Palm Desktop and into the Pre. There are a few ways to move data around now on the Mac and Windows PCs today, but they require that you know how to export and import data using a comma separated values file (.csv files) or a paid utility that pushes data from Palm Desktop into Outlook. Stay tuned on this point. I believe that Palm is working with Chapura to help liberate data in Palm Desktop 3, 4, and 6 and move it to the Pre. Chapura has been helping customers to synchronize data with Outlook for the last 10 years. DataViz may also have a product to help migrate data as they have some experience in this area with their Beyond Contacts application.














webOS' search application is called Universal Search. When you start typing in webOS, the software begins searching your phone for the information you are looking for. If the inforation is not found on the device, you are presented with a screen to begin a search on the Inetnet using Google. In the demo, the user has to trigger the search on the Internet. This should also be a comfort to people who like to keep a tight control on how often and how long their phone is connected to the Internet.

The zoom in/out controls for webOS is exactly like those on Apple's iPhone/iPod touch. No wonder why Apple's COO Tim Cook seemed so upset during the recent Apple quarterly earnings conference call. (I'm on the record as saying that there will be no law suit between Apple and Palm.)

Palm's Crowley reiterated the same information from the CES demo: notifications in webOS do not interrupt the foreground application like they do today in Palm OS 5. Notifications push up into the bottom third of the screen, but don't change the focus away from the application that the customer is in the middle of using. That is such a nice feature.












Crowley also spent some time talking about the coolest feature of the Pre, the Touchstone charging base. Touchstone is a conductive magnetic base that works with the Pre to change the phone when it is at rest on the pedestal. The Pre's webOS knows that it is on Touchstone and if a call comes in while it is at rest on Touchstone, the call immediately goes to speaker phone mode. The Pre can be used in portrait or landscape mode while attached to Touchstone. The Touchstone charger will be sold as an accessory and will be available at Sprint retail locations when Pre launches. Customers will not be required to purchase a Touchstone and the Pre will come bundled wiht a microUSB charging cable.

This week's Pre event was very much about getting the word out about the Palm Pre smartphone and Palm's continuing partnership with Sprint. There wasn't a lot of discussion of some of the technical details about how the Pre will sync with your data that isn't already in the cloud or in a corporate Exchane server. I encougae Palm to start talking about how customers will need to sync their PIM data before the Pre goes on a sale later this year.

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2 Comments:

Blogger rickcart said...

Alan,

Good report. I have not viewed it yet and the buzz I have heard is that other than the Sprint pricing, nothing new was revealed that was not covered at CES.

BTW, did you catch the Pre on Jimmy Fallon?

March 14, 2009 1:01 PM  
Blogger Alan Grassia, Staff Writer said...

Hello Rick,

I was surprised that Palm and Sprint did not provide and new additional details about the Pre during this webcast. My opinion of the event was a marketing effort. The only problem with that is that the people who where getting invited to the event are not typical customers, the normal people. We're the people who are asking all the questions that Palm doesn't want to answer right now like:

What is the expected battery life?

How will data from Palm Desktop 3/4/6 get loaded and synchronized with the device?

How will the new Palm App store work and what is the pricing structure?

Aside from Touchstone, what other accessories are going to be available for Pre when it launches later this year?

The list can go on and on. This isn't a new revision of Palm OS 5/Garnet we're talking about here. This is a brand new, 1.0 platform. There are a lot of unanswered questions coming from the media and bloggers. There is plenty of time for the fluffy advertising later on. The last thing that Palm needs now is to deflate the media and blogger's enthusiasm bubble.

The silver lining is that I still think we're months away from a launch; that is to say that I still think Pre will launch in May of 2009. And it is my understanding that Palm and Sprint will have more of these "Getting to Know Pre" (my name, not theirs) events. My hope is that for the last one or two, Palm will really get the tech details for the Pre, webOS, Synergy, and the software from their launch partners out there. And for goodness sakes, get demo units out to bloggers before the launch and seal it with an NDA kiss. We already know that the Pre is coming, no sense in trying to hide the details any longer.

Alan G

March 14, 2009 4:52 PM  

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