IDG News Service - Palm Inc. is hoping to get back on track with its new Pre touch phone, which comes equipped with the equally new operating system webOS, both announced on Thursday at the International CES.
The Pre and the operating system use a couple of key concepts to make the phone easy to use and to tightly integrate it with Internet services for e-mail, instant messaging and search, as well as with Facebook, according to the company.
For example, the phone organizes multiple active applications using "activity cards," large icons that line up on the display. Using the touch interface, users can flip through them, move them around or throw them off screen by dragging a finger from the bottom to the top of the screen.
Bringing together multiple data sources into one view is also an important part of the Pre and webOS user experience. For example, users can group Outlook, Google and Facebook calendars or collect e-mail from multiple accounts in one in-box. All conversations with the same person over instant messaging or text messaging are together in one chat-style view.
Things such as new text messages and calendar appointments appear as pop-up notifications at the bottom of the screen.
The phone doesn't just use touch; it also comes with a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom of the phone. When the keyboard slides out, the phone becomes slightly curved. Just using a "cheesy virtual keyboard" doesn't cut it, said Jon Rubinstein, executive chairman at Palm, in a direct dig at former employer Apple Inc.'s famed iPhone on-screen keyboard.
Like most other companies that announce smart phones these days, Palm couldn't resist taking a couple jabs at market leader Apple. The executives also highlighted the fact that the Pre battery can be removed, unlike the iPhone battery.
Users can start typing on the keyboard to begin searching for contacts or applications -- a feature Palm called "Universal Search." If it doesn't find anything on the phone, it gives the user the option of choosing from a list of sites to search, including Google and Wikipedia.
The phone will start shipping during the first half of 2009, Palm CEO Ed Colligan said.
Sprint Nextel Corp. will get exclusive access to the phone in the U.S., and its CEO, Dan Hesse, was on stage during the announcement hyping its capabilities. Hesse said he likes the fact that he can speak on the phone and at the same time check his calendar and send an e-mail.
Pricing for the Pre hasn't been announced.
On the hardware side, the phone has support for EV-DO Rev A, 802.11b and g, Global Positioning System capability, Bluetooth with stereo support, a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash and 8GB of built-in storage, but no memory card slot
The phone has a 3.1-in. screen with a 320-by-480-pixel resolution.
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