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Palm Pre to go on sale on Tax Day? Sprint toes the line on ship date

Sprint goes no further than to say ship date in first half of year (see video below of Classic emulator)

April 6, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Reports circulated on a Palm Inc. user forum that the highly anticipated Palm Pre smartphone would be available on Tax Day, April 15, but a spokesman for the Pre's wireless carrier would only say that the device would ship in the first half of the year.

A posting by someone identified as "Inittowinit" on the Everything Treo forum claimed that a Sprint Nextel Corp. customer-service representative on Saturday said that the Pre would be available on April 15 or 16 and that it would cost $300 after discounts with a two-year agreement. However, the poster added that the April date seemed too early, given the absence of any Palm advertising for the new smartphone.

Palm officials could not be reached for comment, and a Sprint spokesman said that Sprint is sticking with its original statement that the shipping date will be in the first half of 2009.

Other forum contributors cast doubt on the April 15 release, noting Sprint has tended to release phones on Sundays, while April 15 is a Wednesday. Still other contributors said they had also heard separately of the April 15 release.

The potential release date made some sense, however, following Palm's April 1 release of more Palm Pre software details. Included in those details was an announcement that the Palm Pre will run an emulator application called Classic, designed by MotionApps that will allow most of the 30,000 Palm OS applications to run on the Pre's WebOS, the new software created for the Palm Pre and future Palm devices. Neither Palm nor MotionApps released the price of the emulator.

The inability of WebOS to run old Palm OS applications prompted heavy criticism by longtime Palm OS users when the Pre was announced in January. However, Palm officials had said all along that they would allow third parties to provide the emulation capability.

In a demonstration captured on video (see below), Palm product manager Tim Pettitt noted that users of older Palm devices will port applications from a PC to the Palm Pre by connecting a USB cable to both and copying applications into the Classic applications folder on the Pre. The WebOS treats the PalmOS applications as "cards," which is Palm's term for how individual applications or files appear on the Pre interface.

However, Palm OS applications running in Classic won't be able to use core WebOS functionality, the company said in a statement. It noted that it is working with partners to make sure that popular Palm OS apps are "optimized to take advantage of everything WebOS has to offer."

The Classic emulator won instant praise from forum contributors. "Honestly, I thought something like this was gonna take 6 months to a year to come out. I have [a] grin from ear to ear," wrote a forum contributor identified as "Lynx."

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A Palm official demonstrates search on the Palm Pre, as well as a glimpse of the Classic emulator application interface on the Pre.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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