After unveiling webOS and the Pre at CES 2009 we knew Palm would have something up its sleeve in 2010, and indeed it did...
The company today unveiled upgrades to both the Pre and cheaper Pixi in the form of the 'Pre Plus' and 'Pixi Plus'. As the names imply, both devices are more incremental upgrades rather than complete overhauls and, arguably, that is all that was required.
Consequently what we find are the Pre Plus packs 16GB of internal memory (double that of its predecessor), though still no microSD expansion slot. The Pre's single navigational button has also been removed, further cleaning the look (I always found it rather unnecessary) and Palm has doubled RAM to 512MB which it claims will vastly improve overall performance (handy since I found the original to be a bit laggy).
Finally, the keyboard - while the same size - has had its action improved to be more clicky (closer to that of the Pixi - or, dare we say it, BlackBerrys). As for the Pixi Plus this also doubles the RAM for a performance boost and makes one simple, but very welcome improvement: it adds WiFi - a major omission on the first generation model.
No UK launch details were provided (hopefully it won't be the circa four month delay we suffered with the Pre, while the Pixi never arrived), but Palm did say both models will hit Verizon on 25 January. Yes, that fast availability, incremental naming scheme and upgrade methodology is very close to Apple and that should be no surprise with ex-Apple guru Jon Rubinstein now heading up the company. Where will Palm goes with these devices? In a word: gaming methinks.
So all in all not the wow factor of the original Palm/webOS announcement, but then it was never likely to be. On the other hand - much like the launch of the iPhone 3G - the Pre and Pixi are arguably more in need of tweaks rather than complete reinvention and I can only see them further aid Palms steady recovery.
Update: Palm has also opened up its notoriously tight (and empty) App Catalog by allowing users to download apps from third party sites, not just through the Catalog itself. This should certainly help the number of apps grow, tough the security implications of the move are somewhat concerning. Personally, it seems a silly risk to me.