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CES 2009: No 'touchy feely' in Palm VIP lounge [day 4]

After yesterday's press conference, attendees were given passes to Palm's VIP lounge to see their new Pre and webOS in the flesh. Logically speaking, I got excited to give you, readers, a hands-on impression of the device and OS.
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Written by Andrew Nusca on

After yesterday's press conference, attendees were given passes to Palm's VIP lounge to see their new Pre and webOS in the flesh. Logically speaking, I got excited to give you, readers, a hands-on impression of the device and OS.

Well, guess what: Palm says no "touchy feely" with their new smartphone. Bummer.

Earlier, editor Larry Dignan noted that one of the fundamental hurdles of Palm's otherwise glorious return to relevance is that the Pre and its new webOS won't be released until "first half of 2009," whatever that means. The point being, that's not right now, and that gives competitors like RIM, Apple and Google a chance to analyze and take into account all of the innovative features of Palm's new unit and OS.

Thus, they're still ironing a lot of things out. Thus, no touchy feely.

What Palm IS doing is live demos by employees -- but they are almost entirely redundant with the press conference demo. It's basically an intimate, on-demand version of yesterday's presentation. So while I can ask a lot of questions not covered by the press conference, the demonstrators have been trained to respond with a simple, "We're not prepared to answer that yet." And I heard that quite frequently as other invited press stopped by to inquire further.

More, after the jump...

As a result, excitement on the press side is slowly tempering. If we can't play with it, and we can't know anything we didn't hear yesterday, we can't get excited -- or even see if such excitement is justified. Apple's the hype-master; it's Palm's challenge to keep the hype going and convince business and consumer customers alike that they think this device is better than the iPhone.

Palm VIP lounge 3

(I told one employee: Palm marketing should have a commercial showing how, for example, it integrates several IM clients. The challenge is to show people that the Pre and webOS really DOES do more, better, than the iPhone.)

On the other hand, I've had the occasion to speak with many Palm employees, and all are visibly excited about the launch. The sentiment is one of pride; they're happy Palm's back in the game and some truly believe that it's better than the iPhone.

In many ways, it is -- the innovative UI is much more flexible, it's open for development to anyone who knows how to create a web page, and the Pre hardware is a sexy piece of machinery (though I'm not a fan of Palm's signature Centro-like rounded corners).

The challenge is getting it in people's hands. As for me? Looks promising, of course, but I'll wait until I receive a demo unit.

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