CTIA: Palm Pre Anticipation, Frustration Grow

Not since the gap between the announcement of the original Apple iPhone and its release has the waiting been as hard as for the Palm Pre. At the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas this week, Palm let launch partner Sprint demo the phone to media and analysts, but it was strictly look-but-don’t touch.

The Pre looks extremely promising, and if it is as good as it looks, it could be the first product to challenge the iPhone on its own ground. But those of us who have been around the business for a while have developed a deep distrust of demos, where it’s easy to make the best features look good while glossing over those that are half-baked. So no matter how good it looks, I’m reserving judgment until I can get my hands on one for a test of reasonable length.

Meanwhile, however, Palm is making the right moves. The company announced that a software emulator would be available to run the thousands of applications written for the original Palm operating system. As analyst Michael Gartenberg points out, this move is of mostly symbolic importance. How many people really want to run clunky apps written for a 160x160 display on a shiny new Pre? But the plan keeps the faith with the legions of Palm fans and establishes continuity between the old Palm and the new. Since there's really no downside to it, it's a good move all around.

But on the disappointing side, Palm shed no new light on the availability or pricing of the Pre. I'm betting on a ship date in June and a price, with two-year Sprint contract, competitive with the iPhone.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.