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Palm Pre, webOS: Software outshines device

Palm Pre, webOS: Software outshines device

Palm's first webOS device, the Pre, certainly marks a step in the right direction for the struggling handset maker: But a poor keyboard, weak battery life and questionable build quality, among other hardware disappointments, will likely hinder the Pre's success. That's a shame, given how promising the webOS software looks.

Introduction: Say Hello to Pre and webOS

Ever since Palm unveiled the Pre and its brand new mobile operating system, webOS, in January at the CES 2009 show, Palm's smartphone has been the talk of the Web, consuming the tech blogosphere and frequently headlining on such sites as WallStreetJournal.com and CNN.com.

That's for good reason. Palm, once king of the PDA space with its Pilot and Treo handhelds, has fallen from grace, and the Pre, along with webOS, represents what may prove to be Palm's final effort at a comeback against those other little smartphone makers, RIM and Apple.

If the Pre is a hit, Palm's down-and-out days could be forgotten as quickly as, say, the Foleo. But if Pre falls flat, further reducing confidence in Palm and its wares, the company may never recover.

I spent some time with the Pre at CES and again at CTIA a few months ago, and I've had a review unit for two weeks now. While I do not think the Pre is a true iPhone or BlackBerry competitor--sorry Palm, apologies Sprint - the webOS certainly caught my attention. And if anything's going to save Palm now, it'll be webOS that does the trick.

It's like I wrote back in January after the first time I laid thumbs on the Pre: "[I]t's not Palm's latest device that has me truly excited; it's the OS." After spending some quality time with the Pre, I'm proud to say I was dead on with my early assessment. But don't just trust me; see for yourself.

First up, the Pre's strengths....

The Palm Pre and webOS: The Positives

First, my (few) positive impressions of the hardware.

The Palm Pre looks great. I very much like its shiny, curvy form factor. Its tiny size--when closed--makes it perfect for carrying in a pocket sans holster. It's also relatively light for a slider device; sliders are typically heavier than normal candy-bar-style devices or even flip phones.

It has just one button on its face, the "Center" key, two more keys for volume controls on its right side and another two on top for muting and power, all of which are easy to access and employ.

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