With the European releases of the GSM Pre coming in about a week to the UK, Ireland, and Germany on O2 and to Spain on Telefonica, early reviews are starting to stream in, reports Precentral. While not as head-turning as the first Sprint reviews from the US, European Palm users and developers will now have webOS in their hands. The GSM version was first spotted in February in Barcelona, and now consumers won't have to wait much longer.
The Times (UK) see the Pre as a "worthy competitor to the iPhone. Beautiful, easy to use, yet able to do complex tasks". While apps are still a sore point, webOS is where the Pre really comes into its own.
Slashgear (US) got their hands on a GSM version, and note that the GSM Pre will only ship with webOS 1.1.3, while "parity" between the CDMA version (Version 1.2.1 or later) won't come until later in 2009. In place of 3G, the O2 version will have UMTS/HSPA with EDGE/GSM support. The 8GB storage limit is also starting to show its age. However, Flash 10.1 beta should greatly improve multimedia capabilities on all Pre handsets.
Golem (Germany), via a translated page, wish Palm had added a memory expansion slot and calls the keyboard "unsatisfactory", lagging behind Treo 650 and 680 models in typing comfort, although still better than an on-screen keyboard. Cards opened rather slowly, so speed could still be optimised. However, webOS helps make it the first "real competitor" to the iPhone.
The Palm Pixi also got a taste of GSM today, as Ubergizmo reports that a Vietnamese site managed to secure a GSM prototype of the Pixi (below, right), sporting only 4GB as opposed to 8GB in the US model. It's likely an early prototype similar to the early rumored AT&T model we glimpsed back in April, so it makes sense that Palm will bring it up to 8GB spec at launch. While we should see the CDMA Pixi by the holidays, availability of the GSM version is still unknown, although early next year would make sense for Palm to establish the market for webOS abroad.
Palm continues to expand their European launch of the Pre, first confirming the UK, Ireland and Germany releases for this month, and now saying "Hola" to Spain on October 14. As predicted as early as March (with a GSM Pre spotted in Barcelona) and firmed up in July, Telefonica will be the exclusive carrier of the handset in Spain, with subsidiary O2 providing for UK, Ireland and Germany.
According to Webosmania (a Spanish webOS blog), the handset will be offered on a 24-month contract, with the device costing €179 (or less) on various voice and data plans (below). The phone can be purchased at Telefonica outlets and online at www.telefonica.es, while further information can be found at the official portal.
Palm recently released a video discussing webOS and the new Palm Developer Program, which gives more freedom to developers in marketing and distributing webOS apps. In addition to a few words from Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, the video features Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith, former Mozilla developers recruited by Palm to head up Developer Relations.
Senior VP or Marketing Katie Mitic briefly discusses the enhanced freedom that Palm is providing, with input from Lawrence Davison, head of Engineering for Marks/Space; Seppo Helava, Lead Designer for Self Aware; and Phil Constantinou, VP of Engineering for Evernote. "Building on those core values of trusting developers, you're going to see more programs just like this [the Palm Developer Program].", states Almaer. "As a developer, there's very little new to learn to hit the ground running...you can take your investment in creating applications, and leverage it in other places", Galbraith continues.
In addition to the video, Palm also has been running a series of developer profiles; interviews with various devs about their experience with webOS, the Mojo SDK and building their apps. You may be familiar with some of the apps already, so definitely worth a look.
For those still toting around their Palm OS apps, MotionApps has just released their latest version of the Classic application. In addition to HotSync functionality via Wifi and Bluetooth (an anticipated feature long in development), the update includes:
Full screen mode
Quick keyboard mode switch
Improved reset functionality
Reduced Power consumption
Other minor tweaks and improvements
In addition, v2.0 includes ClassicApps, a bundle of freeware and trial Palm OS applications that you can get by tapping "install Free Apps" from the menu. The update is free for registered users of 1.0 and 1.1.
At a small gathering in San Francisco last night, Palm unveiled a plan to allow developers more openness when it comes to app distribution and e-commerce. "We want to leave it all out there. You know, ‘The Full Monty'" Palm's senior VP of marketing, Katie Mitic stated. For those familiar with the term, it doesn't get much more open than that.
And what does the "webOS Developer Program" as Palm calls it, improve upon? Mainly, you will soon have two options for marketing your applications; the App Catalog, which we are already familiar with, and web distribution, where Palm will provide a sales transaction and fulfillment service to promote applications online. Developers can freely promote their apps online with a unique URL, and customers can still download and install the application OTA. In addition, if your code is open-sourced, Palm will waive the $99 annual fee. From the press release:
This (web) distribution option offers a fast self-certification process as well as the ability for developers to control the distribution and promotion of their applications using the online marketing vehicles they already have and creating new ones as they see fit.
As for promotion, Palm has you covered: Public feeds of application URLs, reviews, ratings and stats will help applications find their market; and directories, ranking mechanisms and "other inventive services" will emerge to help bring exposure to your work. Palm will also have a unique auction process for developers to obtain prominent placement in the App Catalog.
There has just been a confirmation - Flash running on the Pre! Currently it can play video using a software codec, but hardware acceleration is coming. Check out the demo video below:
I wish I could have been at the Adobe Max conference in LA to see it. But apparently the developer community will recieve the beta sometime before the end of the year.
While I took my information from blog feeds and Twitter updates, the new Flash Player 10.1 will be "smartphone enabled" with multitouch, accelerometer, and screen orientation detection. It was promised to us a few months ago, and now it's finally here. From the press release:
Adobe Systems Incorporated today unveiled Adobe Flash Player 10.1 software for smartphones, smartbooks, netbooks, PCs and other Internet-connected devices, allowing content created using the Adobe Flash Platform to reach users wherever they are. A public developer beta of the browser-based runtime is expected to be available for Windows® Mobile, Palm® webOS and desktop operating systems including Windows, Macintosh and Linux later this year.
Palm's latest 38MB update from webOS 1.2.0 to 1.2.1 this weekend addresses several issues, including fixes to Exchange support, media sync and media streaming. Particularly, they fixed the broken iTunes sync yet again (previously disabled and then patched in webOS 1.1, and promised as a feature on the Palm Pixi). This is despite the USB-IF previously siding with Apple. "Usage of any other company's Vendor ID...appears to violate the attached policy", they state. So how does the Pre accomplish this? Precentral notes that Palm set the Manufacturer ID to read as Apple, and possibly modifying the serial number and USB Product ID to match an iPod Video. What your computer sees is:
USB Product ID: 0x1209
USB Vendor ID: 0x05ac (Apple, Inc) Manufacturer: Apple Inc.
Palm drew heated responses from both critics and supporters of their recent efforts to overcome the iTunes hurdle. For example, I4U News suggests that Apple should just leave the syncing capability intact, as it gives Palm undeserved publicity. And with the popularity of webOS rising this may be the best solution, rather than continuing to shut out webOS or trying to sue Palm and possibly hurt their image. They note that the Blackberry media sync is perfectly acceptable, as it uses the iTunes music XML file on the customer's computer to sync up content.
Other sites such as RWW suggest that Palm's best route should be to focus entirely on their Amazon MP3 Store (recently updated to allow OTA downloads). With more affordable albums (starting at $4.99) they could start from the ground-up to offer a viable alternative to iTunes. As for new software to house the content, Wired suggests that Palm could buy and improve DVD Jon's DoubleTwist software, which is an established app that already syncs with iTunes and is Amazon MP3-friendly. What do you think of the latest back-and-forth between Palm and Apple?
Good news for Palm fans in Europe: The Pre is finally scheduled to hit shores abroad this month exclusively via O2, coming to Germany on October 13, closely followed by UK and Ireland releases on October 16. This confirms earlier rumors that Europe would get the device well ahead of the holiday season, besting competitors Vodafone and Orange.
This will be the first GSM Palm Pre, confirmed as quad-band with dual-band UMTS support. Looks like retailers taking preorders for the GSM version (previously shunned by Palm), may not have to wait too much longer to start exporting the devices to the US and Canada. "There's a lot of excitement about Palm Pre in Europe as we continue to expand Palm webOS products across new carriers and countries...users in Germany can see firsthand how Palm webOS offers a new and better smartphone experience," stated Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein in a press release.
Germany is also accelerating their promotion of the new smartphone, holding launch parties on October 12th in select cities. This is along the lines of Sprint launch parties held in the US, which featured early access to the Pre along with food, wine, and even celebrity appearances. Translation from Precentral:
There will be big Pre parties in six O2 stores in Germany with music, buffets, and "many more surprises". The first 50 people who will buy a pre will get a free Touchstone from O2.
The parties will be on October 12th in the following cities: Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Dortmund, Köln, and Frankfurt.
In terms of webOS, it is also rumored that the GSM Pre may ship with only version 1.1.3, and we may not see the improved 1.2 update until November when they iron out compatibility issues. Also, paid apps could take some time to migrate to the European version.
Monthly pricing will be quite competitive, with 18-month plans in the UK running from just £29.38 with unlimited data and Wi-Fi hotspot access. Pricing charts after the break:
According to a report released this week by AdMob, Palm webOS and the Pre are making their mark in worldwide rankings. As of August, Palm webOS inched past Windows Mobile and is coming up behind Android with 4 percent of the worldwide mobile OS market (according to network activity), despite its first apperance in the rankings. Meanwhile, Symbian, RIM, Windows, and Palm OS usage is declining, giving Palm's new platform an opportunity to grow at an accelerated rate, especially with the webOS Pixi still on the way and the Pre coming to Europe later this month. More after the break.