One More Thing with the Pre? | webOS Nation
 
 

One More Thing with the Pre?

by Derek Kessler Wed, 13 May 2009 9:54 am EDT

Palm Pre - don

There are two things that Pre-fanatics like myself have been wondering since the reveal way back in January. The first is the release date, and frankly, it’s hard to speculate about that. But the second, it’s what is the deal with all the secrecy? If you’ve been following Palm’s Twitter feed, you’ve likely seen the multiple instances of “we’ll have more details closer to launch” line in response to questions about features that Palm has not yet discussed. We’ve even heard that line from Palm employees doing demos for the press, leaving all of us hanging and wondering what’s going on here.

We are pretty sure we know as much as it's possible to know about the Pre without holding it.  Yet we've also heard rumblings that there's "one more thing" - some big feature hidden away in there that we haven't heard about yet.  Crazy?  Probably, but if there is some other new feature, we wonder what it could be.

Office compatibility

We’ve caught glimpses of the Document Viewer application on the Pre, but we don’t know whether that means it's a viewer (Palm has told us in person that document viewing is a go at launch) or an editor. Throw into the mix the fact that DataViz, the creator of the fantastic and popular Documents To Go document editor and synchronization suite for Palm OS, Blackberry OS, Symbian OS, and even Windows Mobile, was shown as a launch partner at the CES unveiling, and maybe, just maybe, Documents to Go will be on the Pre at launch.

This is one of those things about which Palm has said, “We’ll talk about that later.” While it’d be easy to imagine how document editing would work on webOS (it works surprisingly well on Palm OS), the hard part is synchronization with a phone that’s not designed for syncing with the computer where your documents are right now. Which brings me to the next point...

Local synchronization

If there’s any one thing that people have been clamoring for more than a release date, it’s local synchronization capability. Many either don’t want the cloud, or want the option to sync their phones to the computer and keep their data to themselves, which is an understandable desire. But Palm has stated that there is no desktop sync client like the dated-but-functional Palm Desktop, the only thing that happens when you plug the Pre into your computer is that it turns itself into a USB drive so you can drag and drop files between the phone and your computer.

But what about your address book and calendar and memos and everything else you sync right now with Palm OS. Sure, Palm is going to have their over-the-air Palm Backup service that will secure all these things on their servers should your Pre kick the digital bucket, but that doesn’t help you get them onto your computer. Just like the computer was supposed to remove paper from the office (that worked out well), the Pre isn’t going to sever the user’s desire to manage their contacts and calendar through something other than their browser.

We know for sure that Palm will have a web-based Data Transfer Assistant for moving your PIM data over to the Pre the first time, over the air.  We also know that Chapura is working on a sync client for the Pre, but currently it seems as if that will work by syncing your stuff to Google and then down to the Pre.  Finally, we do know that the Pre works as a USB drive (and can't take calls when it does that) -- but a real, tethered sync option for files and data is something that is useful despite how antiquated it feels to some.

Video capture

Treos have had it for years now, the iPhone will be getting it with the 3.0 update, and the Pre doesn’t have video recording capabilities? While Inside Sprint Now’s first Pre FAQ said that the Pre would not have video recording at launch, they did say that such a thing could be fixed easily with an over-the-air software update. Presumably the later and later release date rumors (and the current lack of a defined launch date) are because Palm is/was still refining the software and having enough built so that there more than two Pre phones on hand per store at launch. But what if that last-minute software refinement is the addition of new features, like video recording? Additionally, the leaked spec sheet for the lower-end Palm Eos included a mention of video capture, which implies that it is at least in the works.

Flash

Not the camera type, we know it’s got that, but the browser type. Palm has signed on as a partner with Adobe’s Open Screen Project, which is destined to bring real competent Flash support to mobile devices across a wide spectrum of operating systems (other partners include Intel, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson). Not only will this result in in-browser Flash for webOS, but it could also mean Flash for applications in webOS, which would make development of things like games much easier and faster given then extensive Flash experience that online game developers have cultivated over the years.

Current expectation based on Palm's own statements is that Flash will get added by the end of the year.  That's what we expect too, but maybe some early support could happen at launch?

The late game hardware surprise

Palm has claimed that their don’t touch policy with their Pre demos has been to avoid the appearance of favoritism with the press, even though it has been derided by tech luminaries such as Bonnie Cha of CNET. Clearly, Palm’s demo people don’t like to stray too far from the demo script, nor are they permitted to let people handle the Pre for more than a second, and they sure can’t touch things you say they can’t touch. Of all things, this is where we have to ask, what is Palm hiding?

Obviously, they want to make sure the press doesn’t trigger something that will crash the pre-production Pre phones they’ve had out for the demos, but could there be something in the hardware that they’re hiding? While there’s been no credence to the wishing, with the next iPhone likely to have increased storage, for a competitor that the Pre is going to be inevitably compared to, every comparison is going to note that the iPhone is available at the very least with twice the storage of the Pre (16 GB iPhone 3G vs. 8 GB Pre), or if the rumors are to be believed, four times the storage (32 GB vs. 8 BG).  Could Palm surprise us with increased storage?

Frankly, it’s not likely. But given Palm’s move towards ‘the cloud,’ it is feasible that webOS and Palm could come with online cloud storage to compensate for the Pre’s perceived-to-be-anemic on-device storage. Such cloud-based storage would not only reduce the cost of the physical Pre, but would allow for greater versatility (you could load music or movies off your computer through your faster hardline connection, and then access it remotely with the Pre). This, of course, makes the Pre dependent on Sprint’s network coverage. If you find yourself in a subterranean parking garage, you can kiss your cloud-stored music goodbye.

Lastly, there’s one late game hardware surprise that actually has some support: WiMAX. Palm has been rumored to be working on a 4G WiMAX device since May 2007, but we haven’t seen anything fron it, and Sprint’s roll-out of WiMAX with partner/quasi-subsidiary Clearwire (Sprint owns 51% of Clearwire) has been slow and tortured for years. While Sprint and Clearwire have managed to get their Clear service up and running in Atlanta and Portland, and Sprint’s Xhom (soon to be merged with Clear) is up in Baltimore, they’re still ahead of Verizon and AT&T’s plans to launch LTE as their 4G service.

So, what about the Pre? While multi-tasking and unobtrusive notifications are the really nice things about the Pre, they aren’t exactly buzzword features that will put it head and shoulders in the public’s eyes over the next-gen iPhone. What makes this interesting, is that Sprint’s ‘Now Network’ commercials have all had uncredited cameos of the Pre, immediately following the following line: “America’s most dependable 3G network, bringing you the first wireless 4G network. Sprint, the Now Network.” Of course, it’s likely that Sprint is just trying to promote their network as being more advanced than their more popular competitors, but it’s also possible that the Pre will indeed have WiMAX. Possible in the same way that unicorns are possible.

---

So there you have it -- if there's a late-game surprise with the Palm Pre, we don't rightly know what it is and don't even really know if we're expecting one.  Do you think Palm has one more thing up their sleeve?