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CES 2009: Palm Unveils Impressive New OS & Smartphone

Gordon Kelly


CES 2009: Palm Unveils Stunning New OS & Smartphone

OK, perhaps the most vital keynote for any company at CES in 2009 comes from Palm - a company surely headed only one way (and fast) if it doesn't get this right. We were expecting the company's long overdue new mobile OS and a new touchscreen handset with a sliding physical keyboard. So is it live or die time? I'll tell you what - I think it may just scrape through…

In short the Palm keynote was a triumph with the struggling company announcing a remarkably polished looking mobile platform and an impressive handset that is a kind of hybrid iPhone, T-Mobile G1 and INQ1. So let's cut to it.

First let's get the hardware out the way first. It's called the Palm Pre and as expected it combines a 3.1in 320 x 480 touchscreen display (capacitive and multi-touch capable thankfully) and vertical physical sliding Qwerty keyboard. Closed the design is somewhat like a rounded, almost soap bar-esque, iPhone and the keyboard looks similar to that found on the bold. It's slightly curved when open and packs in EDGE, GPS, WiFi, 8GB of storage, 3MP camera with LED flash, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with A2DP, a 3.5mm headphone jack, removable battery, accelerometer and "fast" new TI OMAP 3430 CPU. Weight is a smidgen on the heavy side at 149.3g but livable.

Now the real news however: 'Web OS'. This is Palm's long overdue, Android-snubbing, bet-the-farm platform on which the company's future hangs - drum roll… it's good, it's REALLY GOOD!'

Certainly surpassing expectations of everyone in the keynote, Web OS is a cross between mobile OS X, Android and that of the INQ1 and it really does seem to cherry pick the best parts of each. There's smart contact aggregation which seamlessly combines data and photography from social networking sites with your existing contacts, apps which happily run in the background, sharp performance, support for multi-touch pinching to zoom in and out, swiping to move between photos and back and forth between apps and it's all built using standard web tools so Ajax, Java and Html programmers can happily design for it.

As you might expect however, the killer aspect is the UI and this is where Web OS shines. iPhone users will be immediately familiar with the basic navigation gestures and Android fans will recognise the ability to swipe open the main menu of application icons but where things take a different - and potentially superior - turn is in 'Cards'.

Much like shuffling through a hand of playing cards (I believe browser tabs to be a better analogy) users can swipe between their apps, reorder and drag them to the top of the screen to close them. Most impressively though is that all Cards remain operational at all times, so they can be controlled from this view and notifications such as new emails, IMs and text messages are unobtrusive to the user appearing at the bottom of the screen where they can be swiped to dismiss or touched to access.

A 'Conversation' stream also takes threaded messaging to the next level combining all forms of communication with a contact (text, IM, phone call records, etc) into a single unified stream. The browser is also full screen and operates just like that of the iPhone with full page rendering, pinching zoom controls and double tapping to snap to text.


January 9, 2009, 3:08 am

I pretty much agree with all of this, I never expected this to be this amazing.

One more worry I have is, will the keyboard be good enough. Some other sites were reporting that the keys don't have much travel and the keyboard is a bit small (cramped).

Palm has indicated though that there will be a 3G/UMTS version in the not too distant future.

William 1

January 9, 2009, 4:40 am

Answering some caveats taken from my browse of current article, please help fill in the blanks:

No 3G is just ridiculous on a device like this and could severely hinder any European launch

Yes there will be 3G see: http://www.engadget.com/2009/0...

Will there be a European launch?

The above engadget indicates so

What is the battery life with all that multitasking?

No idea

Is there Flash browser support?

Yes see http://www.newsweek.com/id/178...

The quality of Maps integration is unknown as it was skipped entirely

Looking at the Palm website it will have turn by turn directions as well as Google Maps but I could not discern any more.

Very little was made of the video playback capabilities, so what about its quality?

Very good according to Newsweek once again

Just how expensive will it be?

Once again no idea

Will a more sophisticated Palm App Store be introduced?

Engadget confirms an App Store http://www.engadget.com/2009/0...


January 9, 2009, 3:08 pm

Go Palm! A very impressive handset and software. As mentioned, it really does looks very much like theyve checked out the competition and taken cherry picked the best parts and thrown in a few ideas of their own. Hopefully this will be out in the UK soon, would definatly consider getting one if the reviews are good!

Yes, could very much be a massive comeback from palm


January 9, 2009, 6:39 pm

what about other multimedia capabilities? ie music player..?

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