There are caveats but this could be the stand-out news of CES 2009...
Perhaps more exciting however is the so-called ‘Think Ahead’ technology in Web OS. Taking a potentially giant step forward for mobile platforms, Think Ahead allows a user to start typing on the keyboard anytime they are not using a text entry box and the OS will work out what application you need automatically. The example given was to search for ‘Blue Man Group’.
Enter ‘Blu’ and a new transparent overlay appears bringing up the Bluetooth settings icon and a contact whose last name was ‘Bluth’. Keep typing the rest of ‘Blue Man Group’ and since the handset cannot find corresponding information on it then Web, Wikipedia and Maps options appear.
Tap anyone of these and the search term is automatically entered into that application. Smart stuff.
The cherry on top is the charger which we were led to believe will come bundled with the Pre. Dubbed ‘Touchstone’, it is a wireless inductive charging dock which holds the device either horizontally or vertically via magnets. Showing the same level of thought as that put into Web OS means should a user answer a call when the Pre is connected to the Touchstone then speakerphone communication will begin automatically.
Moving onto the nitty gritty and we find Sprint announced as the exclusive US telco with pre-orders beginning now with a ‘first half’ of 2009 launch time frame. Frustratingly nothing is mentioned internationally and no price brackets were suggested.
While the Pre and Web OS impressed me far more than I ever expected there remain some bumps:
- No 3G is just ridiculous on a device like this and could severely hinder any European launch
- Will there be a European launch?
- What is the battery life with all that multitasking? (Did that what put the kibosh on the 3G?)
- Is there Flash browser support?
- The quality of Maps integration is unknown as it was skipped entirely
- Very little was made of the video playback capabilities, so what about its quality?
- Just how expensive will it be?
- Will a more sophisticated Palm App Store be introduced?
In short however – as long as Palm isn’t too far down the road to self destruction, Web OS should be its saviour. The company has returned to the innovation with which it made its name and if it can now augment the Pre with additional models (I say again ”3G”) then the impression it made on me was so striking that I’d say this currently leapfrogs Android and battles with mobile OS X to be the most impressive mobile platform I’ve seen to date.
”’Update:”’ A 3G edition of the Pre looks set to be headed to Europe people which could make this the killer new smartphone for the start of 2009. Google Maps is the mapping software of choice and the photos it takes are surprisingly good. Even Palm shares have sky-rocketed 35 per cent on the news. Could this be the comeback of all comebacks?!