I’ve had my hands on the upcoming Palm Pre for a few days now and have followed the development of this device / platform for over a year. What I really love about this product is that Palm demonstrated that the latest and greatest technology or some novel feature is not always what is necessary to drive interest / demand for a product. The new Palm Pre more then anything else innovated upon the experience with a mobile device.
Palm took the most used applications phone, contacts, and calendar and made them all better. They looked deeply at what people do and want to do with their mobile devices and brought developed features, software and user experience that helps people do the single most important thing a mobile device is used for and that is communication. Things like universal search make finding a contact very quick and easy but then by integrated all the options you have to communicate with this contact, IM, text, call etc and quickly gives you the option to communicate with people. Communicating is key and making communication easier is what Palm had done with the Pre.
Now I can’t talk about the Pre without talking about the Web Operating System, which will be so central to Palm as a company moving forward. I agree with many in the media who are optimistically criticizing the beta application store that will be available on the Pre. That being said I think it is important to understand that the way Palm has architected this Web OS is intentionally in a way so that creating software for the Pre is essentially as easy as creating software for the web. Now in case it is missed this is largely important because what they have done is offered to the software development community a platform that does not require a new language or a new / foreign development environment. Simply their message to developers is: If you can write software for the web you can write software for the Pre. This essentially gives them one of the largest software development communities right out of the gate. This point cannot be overlooked by the industry because it is a very strong position for software development on the Pre platform.
No one will argue that in the smart phone space we are well beyond our fascination with hardware and we are into our love affair with software on these devices. One of the primary purchase decisions for the iPhone currently is the apps, there’s an app for that. Apple has made great strides and will continue to make great strides attracting great software developers who will develop great software. Apple’s developer community will continue to grow but what Palm has done was instantly open themselves to the millions of people who write software for the web, essentially giving them one of the largest software development community’s day one.
Now Palm is not without some pretty significant hurdles to overcome. Getting volumes of Pre’s in the hands of consumers so there is a strong user base for developers to develop for, adding other carriers, and many more. For Palm however the scariest challenge is the company a few cities away from them, Apple.
One thing I know for sure is that Apple will keep innovating. They understand what it takes to compete in this market and what their consumers want like no other company in the consumer business. Yet I would not count Palm out, their brand is solid, they are the first device the media is acknowledging competes with the iPhone and I would not count them out.
However my advice to Palm is: Do not take your foot of the innovation pedal, in fact press it to the floor.