Round Table: What do you expect at CES? | webOS Nation

Round Table: What do you expect at CES?

by Dieter Bohn Mon, 04 Jan 2010 11:58 am EST

We're back with another PreCentral Round Table, where your favorite webOS dorks + one guest prognosticate about, well, something interesting. Today we figured it was time to get on the record about what we're really expecting on January 7th at Palm's CES announcement. Come on in and see what we're thinking and then let us know what you're thinking.

Hopes and dreams will be confirmed, dashed, or ignored completely... after the break! (Updated with one more prediction)

Derek Kessler: Jon Rubinstein is going to step up on stage and talk about everything that Palm has accomplished in the past year. He'll mention how they've managed to expand distribution onto multiple carriers since the Pre launched seven months prior. And then the Pre will launch on Verizon, with Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam hoping up on stage to extol the virtues of America's largest network. After that, we'll be introduced to the Pre Plus, and maybe the Pixi Plus, both launching on Verizon first, other networks later. I'm not expecting anything more than more memory for the Pre Plus, which makes me wonder why it is being called the "Plus." While that's nice and all, the new hardware isn't going to be the big news. The big news will be Palm's preview of webOS 1.4 (or 1.5 or 2.0 or whatever), which will come complete with built-in Flash support and OpenGL with the GPU and Mojo Messaging System push notifications (betcha forgot about that).

And in the recognition of the importance of apps, we'll get a preview of the new native SDK that goes along with the new version of webOS. And the launch of Palm's unfiltered distribution that Ben Galbraith and Dion Almer showed off last year. And official support for themes. All with acknowledgment of the work done by the awesome homebrew community. Given how little we've heard, apart from the Pre and Pixi on Verizon, I am expecting a surprise, but what exactly to expect I'm quite uncertain as to what we may see.

Craig Lincoln: What a year Palm has had! Palm made good on promises to launch webOS, the Pre in the first half, and the Pixi in the second half. Rubinstein won't say it but the Pre is now well over one million units and on it's way to two million as more international markets open. Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein will proclaim that the app catalog has hit 1,000 apps, no more app limit, and key features they have added to webOS.
Then will come the big announcements. Verizon has had it's coverage map war with AT&T for a year but notice they have not had a phone to talk about. Palm will roll out it's "third generation" webOS phone for Verizon with a new Verizon ad campaign. Pixi will be declared to have been the second generation with Verizon announcing a "family" of webOS products (Pre, Pixi, and Pre3). Watch for more "iPhone Killer" talk. Though Adobe Flash is months late, Adobe will announce Flash as a new success. Also watch for a video recording announcement of something much like our homebrew Precorder app
Palm's other big announcement will be webOS gaming. WebOS Internals' just got the Doom game working with the Graphics Processor. This points to an OpenGL announcement. Palm will talk up Ares and the Public Developer Program and a give us a taste of the coming explosion of apps, especially games and business apps.
With the Apple iSlate launch, Palm will need as big splash at CES. We won't be disappointed.

Phil Nickinson (of WMExperts and Android Central): Jon Rubenstein will stride onto the stage at CES and publicly declare the rebirth of Palm, from the depths (and death) of the Foleo and the time spent in the desert, to the launch of webOS and the Palm Pre. Hopefully we'll see some sales numbers announced, or at least some usage numbers. Palm might not be a company prone to strutting, but maybe they should a little, and publicly.

The announcement we must -- MUST -- hear is that that Pre will soon be available on a carrier other than Sprint. Palm's special relationship with Sprint has hurt almost as much as it's helped. Palm needs to get phones in as many hands as possible, and the clock is ticking, and momentum is being lost. The announcement of a new Palm device (and something other than a slightly tweaked Pre) is unlikely. But given the secrecy surrounding the Pre before it was announced a year ago, I'm not going to bet against it.

Robert Werlinger: Palm probably won’t make as big of a splash as they did at CES2009, but I think there will be some pleasant surprises.  We will see iteration on the hardware front, along the lines of the already confirmed Pre and Pixi Plus rather than a new handset entirely.  Palm could not afford to wait until mid-summer to announce their comeback attempt last year, and had to announce early.  Palm is in a much better position this year, and can hold its cards close until this summer when I anticipate that they will hold an event announcing a new high-end device.  The one thing I see happening on the device front that hasn’t been speculated about much will be the announcement of an unlocked developer phone sporting both  AT&T and T-Mobile 3G bands, something that’s sorely been lacking in the last few months.
The big announcements coming from Palm at CES will involve their software and services.  We will see the Palm Profile expanded to where you can log in through the portal on Palm’s site and manage exactly what gets backed up and how, manage purchased applications and buy more, and be able to export your contacts for use on other online services or for backup.  The rollout of the official application distribution program will be announced, along with paid apps for everyone.  We’ll catch a glimpse of the future of webOS and the  and the extended SDK capabilities that will come with it, allowing for developers to reach even further down into the hardware to access things like the microphone, GPU, and the camera. On the accessory front, of course, we'll see the touchstone line of accessories finally expanded with some kind of inductive charging + data transfer (bluetooth?) device.
None of the above matters, of course, if you don’t have a solid base of customers.  CES will see the announcement of new carrier partnerships both domestically with the likes of Verizon, and abroad in countries that don’t have a Telefonica subsidiary.
As far as the unexpected goes (and we know something’s gonna come out of left field), who knows, maybe we will see a webOS based tablet!

Dieter Bohn: Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers. Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!

Ok, maybe we won't see CEO Jon Rubinstein channel Steve Ballmer, but I very much expect that development will be the central focus of this year's CES announcements from Palm. Given the recent developments with webOS 1.3.5, I fully expect some sort of elegant native SDK to happen - but it's 50/50 whether or not that SDK will be open to everybody or to select partners at first. Most likely we'll see some big software houses show off some apps, but getting the native app SDK to everybody will take some time.

I expect that Palm will not "pull an Apple" by dropping HTML-based development like a hot rock, but rather will try to show how both methods are complimentary. webOS is webOS, and Palm's commitment to open development is here to stay. Palm will also spend quite a bit of time talking about openness - how they're opening up app distribution, how it's easier than ever to not only create but also distribute apps for webOS, how discovering new apps will be easy.

On the hardware front, we'll see the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus - both available on Verizon. I think that the "Plus" will simply mean more memory and some other small tweak that I can't fathom - but the overall form factor will stay the same. If we're really lucky we'll see Palm drop the center button on the Pre Plus and maybe even see the Pre Plus available for Sprint. I'd also like to think we'll hear about a GSM Palm Pre for the US, but I doubt it.

But hey, we should get different colors for the Pixi at least.

Jonathan Ezor: Other than wishing I could be there, my thoughts on Palm at CES:
1)     Lots of discussion of 1.3.5, especially as it compares to 1.0 (to show how quickly Palm is innovating and responding to user issues);

2)     Launch of webOS devices on Verizon; I’m expecting that the Verizon Pre (Plus, 3, whatever) will offer 16 GB RAM and/or microSDHC (I’d prefer the latter, if given the choice). The Verizon Pixi will have a microSDHC slot. Both will get voice dialing/recording and free turn-by-turn directions to replace Sprint Navigation. Oh, and if the Verizon Pixi does have Wi-Fi as rumored, the likelihood of more hardware features in the Verizon Pre goes way up, to differentiate the products and their price points.

3)     GPU support announced and demoed

4)     Flash support announced and demoed, possibly with beta download available

5)     Launch of new official alternative to App Catalog (the URL generator), along with official notice and blessing of vibrant homebrew community

6)     Demo of upcoming additional non-audio Bluetooth profiles, including file transfer and keyboard

7)     Hinting at additional form factors for webOS (to blunt the expected Apple tablet announcement)

We've said our piece. What are you expecting?