This strategy could give the Pre some interesting capabilities. For instance, Palm has revealed that the phone’s search feature will automatically search the Web as well as the data stored on the device itself.
Attracting application developers will be crucial for Palm, says Mike Gualtieri, an analyst at Forrester. As the company tries to build up its own app store, it will run up against fierce competition. With so many smart phones on the market, each with its own OS, its own store, and its own apps, individual and professional programmers will have to make tough decisions. Gualtieri says that this might be where Palm has a chance to shine.
Gualtieri has seen a trend toward companies expanding into more-advanced Internet applications. So when companies go looking for a mobile applications platform, Palm may be positioned as the easiest, most accessible choice, based on Web standards that match the technologies that the company already uses.
Still, the road to simpler, faster, Web-integrated apps won’t be easy at first. The Pre’s webOS SDK isn’t yet widely available to programmers, for one thing: it’s currently only in private release. Analysts suggest that this may be so that Palm can work out any bugs before the masses get hold of it–which is understandable, they say, if frustrating for developers. But with one shot at a comeback, Palm isn’t taking any chances.
The Pre has a few other features designed to lure prospective smart-phone users: a slide-out physical keyboard as well as a touch screen, a removable battery that recharges without a cord, and the ability to run multiple programs simultaneously. Like other mobile platforms, however, it will be restricted to one carrier, Sprint Nextel, for at least its first six months.
The battle won’t be easy, and Palm will be fighting on two fronts: one for users, another for developers. “They have to get people writing apps for the phone,” says Gualtieri. “They’re dead if people say, ‘This is a beautiful phone, but it’s tough to write apps for.’” How the Pre fares may determine Palm’s future. And this time, app developers may lead the way.