Since Palm introduced its new smart phone at CES last month, the buzz has been deafening and for that alone, Palm deserves a lot of credit. Let's face it, they were up until that moment, a company on life support, but with one smoothly-presented product announcement they were on the lips of the entire the internet and people began anxiously awaiting the release of the new Palm Pre (Rumor pegs a March 15th release by Sprint).

People were suddenly talking about Palm again (and not speaking nostalgically about their Palm Pilots). The questions remains however whether this phone can really take on the likes of the Apple iPhone or even the G1 or the Blackberry (in all its various incarnations)? I'm not so sure it can, but it's good to see another fighter stepping up to try.

What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape?

John Keats was writing about a Grecian urn when he penned those words, but the Pre has style and that is a big factor for cell phone users. It also has a nice little keyboard tucked away and that will surely appeal to the many people who dislike the touch screen keyboard. Unlike the G1, which has a clunky slide-out keyboard, the Pre's keyboard is beveled and bent slightly for easier use. It has a beauty to it that the awkward-looking G1 lacks. I haven't held one, but like the iPhone (and iPod), it appears to be a device that will feel comfortable in your hand, another important factor

But Palm chose to go keyboard-only for this device in spite of having a touch screen, and for people like me, who find typing on a cell phone keypad or even a teeny tiny keyboard, a maddening experience, it would be nice to at least have the option of using a touch keyboard. It seems like it would have been simple enough to add one, but perhaps like Apple which stubbornly adheres to an all-touch design, maybe Palm decided they would be the anti-Apple, the phone for the folks who nimbly type one-handed (while driving).

Don't Underestimate the Cool Factor

As with a restaurant or a night club, you just never know why one takes off and another flounders. There is a certain mystery to it, but the Pre seems to have a big cool dynamic going for it. And when it comes to choosing cell phones having a device people want to be seen carrying can be an element in in the purchase decision (at least for some people). If the phone ends up sucking, it will lose its appeal fairly quickly, but if it lives up to the hype with true utility as the iPhone has, then it has a good shot at finding a big market.

There has been some talk that Apple will use its new multi-touch patent as a club to stop the Pre, but I hope Apple doesn't wield its power in this fashion. If it does, it will only prove to the market that it's a phone worth having. Palm suddenly has a new phone everyone's talking about and the incredible publicity that only a possible lawsuit could bring them. Not bad for a company, that not too long ago was down for the count.

Brand expert John Tantillo named Apple last week's 'brand winner' (Microsoft was named the loser), specifically citing the fact that Apple, unlike Microsoft, pays attention to its Target Market and what it wants.

From what I read on Wired, it seems likely that Apple is putting the muscle of the upgrade in the 2.x iPhone toward gaming.

If Apple does move in this direction and put such a strong focus on gaming, they will be losing sight of their much broader and more diverse target market and focusing instead on the target market of the gaming industry. This would definitely leave them wide open to competition from an alternative product such as the Pre--if Sprint does a better job listening to its customers.

Tantillo also had a post a while back on women as consumers of electronics--and how companies such as Best Buy had ignored these consumers and had started to mend their ways. Apple would be wise not to make the same sorts of mistakes. But if they do, the Sprint will have a leg-up. Some of us aren't interested in gaming..or touch screens. (Yes, I text without looking, while crossing the street.)

Hi Elo8
Thanks for the fantastic comment. I agree completely. If Apple doesn't keep its eye on the ball, it could leave an opening for other vendors with products that people want.

The App Store, however, is a huge differentiator right now and the games have been tremendously popular. I'm not sure changes Apple is planning for the next generation iPhone will exclusively benefit gamers (I don't use it for gaming myself, but my son does on his Touch), but your warning is a wise one.

Thanks again for the great comment and I plan to subscribe to Tantillo's blog immediately.

Ron