Palm Pre wins hearts and minds, but is it enough?

I think if there’s a company that I’d love to see win, it’s Palm. It’s been a long journey for me personally with Palm, going back 10 years. They’ve lost their way in the past few years, so the Palm Pre smartphone and new webOS marks a comeback for them.

There’s been so much coverage over the past few days that it can be quite difficult to sort all the impressions out. So far, there are more positives than negatives. Here are some of the views and coverage that matter :

TreoCentral first impressions : “The Palm Pre is going to be a killer device and it has a real shot at garnering more developer support than Android and may even approach the iPhone in terms of applications — seriously”. TreoCentral video hands-on (done by the Jonathan Ive of Palm, i.e. Peter Skilman, VP of Product Design).

Gizmodo Preview: “Simply Amazing.” Gizmodo also compares the Palm Pre versus the current smartphone trend leaders, the Apple iPhone and Google Android G1. Palm Pre holds its own.

CNET First Impressions : “The Palm Pre and Palm Web OS isn’t necessarily going to revolutionize the smartphone market, in that it doesn’t offer any crazy, new features, but it definitely brings a fresh look into the way you interact with a device and how it organizes information.”

Engadget’s in-depth impressions (lots of photos and videos). “The UI outclasses most of its competition on a number of levels, and actually may be quite a bit more revolutionary than the iPhone.”

While I’m still undecided on whether the Pre is the right thing for me, it appears that Palm has wowwed enough people to make a big splash at CES. They won 3 Best of CES awards from CNET : the Best Cell Phone / Smartphone, the People’s Voice award, and the biggie, the Best in Show Award.

There are still questions, of course.
- How much will the phone cost? Will it match the iPhone and Android G1 at below US$200 with contract?
- When will we see a GSM version?
- How many developers have signed up for webOS development, and how many apps can we expect in Palm’s “App Catalog”?

Right now, I think timing is Palm’s biggest challenge. By the time the Pre launches later in the year with Sprint (and certainly by the time the GSM version rolls out), the iPhone will probably go version 3.0. Nokia’s N97 will be out. Android will have more phones out, and who knows what type of Blackberry RIM will deliver. Is the Pre enough to fight the competition?

We’ll see. It’s going to be an exciting year.