Palm Pre smartphone, webOS debuts at CES

Palm Inc. has just introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show a brand-new touchscreen smartphone, powered by a brand-new operating system.

The Palm Pre’s front is all touchscreen with a single button. It slides upwards vertically, on a slight tilt, to expose a full keyboard. But the CES demonstration was done entirely using the touch interface — no keyboard and no stylus.

That’s due in part to what Palm dubs webOS. Details of this are still emerging. But blogging from the scene in Las Vegas, reports that Palm officials say that “anyone who knows [Cascading Style Sheets]CSS, HTML and XML will be able to develop for the OS without having to learn any new languages.” The user interface is simple and touch-based, with flick-scrolling through lists and gesture support that goes “beyond the screen.”

Palm Pre has a 3.1-inch display with 320-by-480-pixel resolution. It features a 3.0 megapixel camera and built-in GPS, 8G flash storage.

One feature is Synergy, a synchronization program that automatically pulls contact information from sites like Facebook, Google and Outlook, organizes it and creates a single listing in the Pre. The phone also offers a consolidated instant-messaging feature from multiple IM services.

The phone supports Sprint Nextel EV-DO Rev A; and comes with built-in 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a micro USB port, USB mass storage support, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The battery is removable but recharges via Touchstone, a wireless, magnetic induction charger, similar to that used for electric toothbrushes.

At least one in three handhelds will be smart phones by 2013, according to ABI Research Inc.

The new Palm Pre will go on sale in European countries during the first half of this year, the same time frame as for the U.S., Palm CEO Ed Colligan said in a brief interview.

No pricing has been announced so far.

About 780,000 PalmOS based smart phones were sold to consumers during the third quarter last year, which was more than twice as many as in the same period a year earlier.

But at the same time, competitors Research In Motion (RIM) sold 5.8 million units and Apple sold 4.72 million iPhones, according to Gartner.

(With files from Mikael Rickn

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