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Windows Mobile (soon to be Android), and other toys aka gadgets

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Saturday, January 10, 2009
  New Palm Pre Looks Impressive
Updated March 15, 2009

The new Palm Pre looks very impressive. I have a soft spot for Palm since I have owned 16 Palm OS devices, and wish Palm great success with this device. Although I am currently a Windows Mobile user, the Pre looks like it could be a game changing device. I am very happy with my HTC Touch Pro, and have no plans to change devices in the immediate future; however, I will be following the Palm Pre's progress closely. I am basing my comments on the Pre as described, and demonstrated during a news conference at CES. I reserve final judgement until I see, and handle the device at a Sprint store.

You may question why I find the Pre impressive, but am not an iPhone fan. For me, the iPhone was evolutionary at best for finger navigation, but severely lacking in needed functionality. The iPhone's interface is nice, but a little bit too gimmicky, and glitzy. I find the Apple guidelines for the iPhone to be too restrictive, and mundane. I have tried numerous soft keyboards on multiple mobile platforms, and just don't like them for typing anything over one sentence. I don't own an iPhone (too feature deficient for my needs), but do have extensive experience with the iPod touch. The Pre has a physical keyboard which is critical for my main mobile device. The Pre's keyboard looks ergonomically designed, and results in the microphone being closer to the mouth which should help with clear telephone calls.

The Pre also supports true multi-tasking which is another feature I use constantly on the HTC Touch Pro, and all my WM based devices. My Archos 5 has a similar processor to the Pre's, and the Pre's processor should handle multi-tasking many applications very easily. The iPhone's pseudo multitasking just does not cut it for me.

The card metaphor interface on the Pre makes the iPhone's alleged game changing interface look dated, and so last year. The larger menu selections on the iPhone are welcome; however, I have been using finger navigation on my WM and Palm devices for many years. Yeah, it is a bit easier on the iPhone, but nothing earth shattering. The Pre's soft equivalent of the 4 hard buttons on the previous Palm devices looks like a nice compromise between maintaining the functionality of the hard buttons while eliminating the actual buttons. The gesture area beneath the Pre's screen is an innovative feature for me. One of my complaints with the browsing experience on the iPhone/touch is you have to block your line of sight to scroll down a webpage, which in landscape mode is about every 12 lines - very annoying. During the Pre demo, the web page was scrolled down by swiping in the gesture area which allows scrolling the page down without blocking your view, a big improvement over the iPhone/iPod touch. Although the gesture area is nice, I would like to see a soft button on both the Pre, and iPhone which scrolls a webpage down an accurate page length for each soft press of the virtual button.

You had a lot to say in your iPhone review about you dislike for pseudo web apps in version 1 of the iPhone. Don't you have a similar problem with the Pre's development being based on web standards such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript? Based on the info available, you will be able to make applications that function fine on the device without network connectivity. I don't care which languages or scripting methods are used as long as the application is totally resident on the device, and can operate without network connectivity. My complaint with version 1 of the iPhone apps was not the web based language used to develop them. My complaints with version 1 iPhone apps were the need to be connected to the network to use them, and the limitations on the system resources the developer could access. Having been a manager/supervisor for the bulk of my career, I have seen Murphy's Law in action many times. When you most need an application that requires network connectivity, the network will be down, or you will be in an area with poor network connectivity.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding. I like what I saw in the Pre's introduction at CES. I was not at CES, but did watch the complete news conference via download from Palm's site. If the Pre is as nice when I actually get a chance to use one at the Sprint store, then the Pre, and not the iPhone would be the game changing smartphone device.

Update March 15, 2009 - I purchased the TealOS launcher for Palm OS devices which gives older Palm devices a Pre-like interface. Although the older Palms do not multi-task like the Pre will, an image of the last screen used in an application is saved to the desktop before closing, and you can manipulate desktop items like you saw in the Pre demo from Barcelona. The operation is smooth, and will probably be even smoother on the Pre since it will have a faster processor. I brought one of my favorite Palm OS devices, the Tungsten C, out of storage to test TealOS. The C's 400MHz processor does a nice job running TealOS smoothly, and quickly. I also tried running TealOS on my other favorite Palm OS device, the TH-55 Sony Clie. The Clie has a 3.5", 480 x 320 screen, but unfortunately only has the Handheld Engine™ processor which maxes at 123MHz. TealOS worked fine on the TH-55, and looked real nice on the big screen, but it was sluggish - the 123MHZ processor just can't cut it. Again, processor speed will not be a problem with the Pre. Just for kicks, tried TealOS on the Tungsten T (144MHz), and as expected, very sluggish. I was impressed with the popup wave launcher which worked fine on all tested devices albeit sluggish on the devices with slow processor speeds. If you have a Palm OS device with at least a 200MHZ processor, give the TealOS trial a whirl, you will get to experience the Pre like desktop card metaphor prior to its release.
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I was a Palm OS champion for years, but switched to the Windows Mobile platform in 2005. My experiences using my Windows Mobile devices, and other electronic devices will be detailed in this blog. The posts reflect what I like, and do not like about a device, or application. Your needs, and opinion may be different.

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