Palm Pre: An also-ran


An “also-ran” is, literally, “a horse that does not win, place, or show in a race.” The world loves an underdog but it never loves an also-ran. It forgets about an also-ran.

And so we reach nearly the end of Palm Pre madness and I’m afraid to report that after all the magic, all the tears, all the joy the Palm Pre will be just another phone. It won’t save Palm, it won’t change paradigms, and it won’t send the iPhone hegemony crashing to its knees. The Palm Pre will launch with a whisper, not a bang.

Why? Because we hyped it too much. Because the software is untested in real-life situations and we, as neophiles, are delightfully impatient when it comes to wonky design. Because the hardware is “plasticky,” according to Boy Genius and “you often hit multiple keys at the same time while typing.” Because, to paraphrase the old saying, no matter how much you obsess and how many Apple engineers you hire the last opinion always falls to the consumer.

I would equate this launch to the G1. Instead of creating an entirely new trunk Palm is branching off of the established phone environments. This new branch will be healthy and well-recieved and I’m sure they’ll sell a few models but this is carrier/OEM blindness at its worst. The pricing will be high, the feature set will remind the world of every other wonky LG and Samsung out there, and the OS will be half-baked at launch.

Then there’s the viral/goodwill aspect. You can’t unlock this phone in America or Europe because it doesn’t have a SIM card slot. The iPhone (I didn’t want to bring up that name but I’m trying to prove a point) was popular world-wide before it launched world-wide. This is an important fact. Then you have the fact that Sprint is considered a “meh” carrier with Verizon winner of the coverage wars and AT&T the go-to carrier for “3G.”

Eric Zeman, phonescooper, shares my opinion that this thing will be buried. The phone launches in nine days, two days before the new iPhone (and there will be a new iPhone or I’ll eat my hat (Caveat: hat must be made of jerky)), and when it does it will blow out like a solar flare – majestic, powerful, but all too fleeting.