Friday, January 30, 2009

Palm Pre and WebOS, what is it for you?

Palm introduced a new and fancy Palm Pre in CES some time ago. Palm isn't so popular in Finland (or in Scandinavia?) but I believe it has some interesting possibilities for all of us. The main enabler is it's new operating system called WebOS. At the moment there isn't too much information about the WebOS, but all in all this seems like an interesting mobile phone and concept.

1. Palm Pre. Images available at Palm Pre -gallery.

It is interesting to see how market will adopt touch-screen with a slider. I think this is a good idea, because the user has an option to use either one. I really like Nokia N96's slider mechanism, but every now and then I wish it would have also a touch-screen.

Pre's technical specifications are quite similar to any other smartphone; big screen, all necessary communication methods (GSM, 3G, WiFi, bluetooth), enough memory and good processor. One interesting detail is that Palm offers a cordless charger for Pre. The charger uses induction for charging, but if I understood correctly this is not included in the sales package.

Although Palm Pre is meant for anyone, I've listed some of the possibilities that it offers to users and developers.


As a user, you are probably enjoying the big screen that is suitable for example for browsing and watching movies. As a "all-in-one" device, I believe Palm offers a good music experience also. Palm has basically the same Webkit-based browser that S60 devices and iPhone/iPod Touch have.

You can use Pre with our without physical keyboard and I believe most of the users like this kind of possibility. Touchstone, the cordless charger, sounds first nice but when you start thinking it a little more, it might not be so convenient. At least I usually browse or play with my phone when it is being charged. When using Touchstone, this is difficult or impossible. So I think you will need 2 different chargers. On the other hand, cordless charging is a really nice feature which will be more and more popular in the future.

It doesn't matter which smartphone you are using, still you usually need to install some 3rd party software to make your life easier and better. Hude wrote a really good article about mobile platform diverseness and Palm brings yet another platform to the markets. Although platform is based on web technologies, it might take some time before you'll get all your favourite applications working in Palm Pre.

One of the coolest (and probably one of the most useful) feature is combining contacts and other information from different services, like Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and corporate e-mail system. Palm Pre should be also able to combine conversations meaning that you can start with IM and continue with SMS and they are shown as an one conversation thread. Palm calls this feature Synergy. These kind of features are really good when people are using more and more different services. It is really time consuming to be active in several social networks.

Palm Pre promises that it is able to automate (or think ahead) in some services, for example if you are running late from a meeting, Palm Pre should be able to estimate your arrival time using GPS and maps and send a note to meeting participants. It is interesting to see how well these automated features work because usually they don't.

It is interesting to see what happens now that there are more and more devices with a really good browser. Good browsers combined with today's "cloud thinking" can be a success. Companies are for example taking or investigating if it would be beneficiary to take some of the services to a cloud. When the services are in the cloud, employees could easily access them with their mobile phone as long as the communication channel is secure enough. I believe this will fasten the mobile browsing even more. One of the obstacles offering intranet services for mobile employees have been wrongly designed intranet and connections to intranet.


As a developer, you must be thrilled that all the applications in Palm Pre have been build using web technologies (XHTML, JavaScript and CSS) or atleast they are stating this in the introduction video.

According to Palm, there are around 10 million web developers, so there should be a big enough developer community. Application distribution program will be vital, just like Apple has shown. I still have difficulties believing that there are more than 15.000 applications in Apple's AppStore. It remains to be seen how well Palm will handle this.

I believe that due to lack of information, developers have more questions than answers. Here are some questions that came to my mind:

  • Will the WebOS be fully open? Are there some restrictions that application can or cannot do?

  • Can application access memory card or SIM? Is this possible via browser?

  • What kind of billing system there will be? In Palm and in the Application Store.

  • When the SDK will be available?

  • How easy is it to port existing Palm software to be interoperable with Palm Pre?

Unfortunately there isn't too much information available yet about Palm Pre and my views are based on the Palm Pre introduction video. See it yourself and check if you are also amazed at the people applausing for the fact that Palm Pre has a removable battery?!?

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