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    Pre posts strong showing for resurgent Palm

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver October 20-26, 2009; issue #1043

    High Tech Office column

    It may be hard to remember, but a decade ago the typical handheld business tool was a Palm Pilot personal digital assistant. Like today’s devices, it held contact and to-do lists and personalized calendars. Its wireless communications capabilities, however, were limited to sending a digital “business card” to other nearby Palms.

    In their day, these were market-leaders, outselling other Palm OS-powered devices from the likes of Sony and mini-Windows handhelds from HP, Dell and others. After buying competitor Handspring, Palm pioneered adding mobile-phone and web-browser capabilities to PDAs with its once innovative and popular Treo line.

    But somewhere along the way, Palm fell asleep and was overtaken by the likes of Apple’s iPhone and the various BlackBerry smartphones. Early this year, the company announced that it was back, with its new Pre.

    Now available in Canada, the Pre promises a comeback not only for Palm but also for Bell Mobility, whose CDMA network doesn’t connect to devices like the iPhone.

    While the Pre shares a similar multi-touch screen to the iPhone, it has a pull-down physical keyboard – somewhat small, but arguably easier to use than the iPhone’s virtual keyboard.

    Unlike the iPhone, the Pre can run more than one application at a time. This is handy for, among other things, downloading messages in the background.

    The Pre’s web browser is very good, equalling the iPhone’s Safari browser.

    Like the iPhone, Pre’s storage is built-in and can’t be expanded. Unlike the iPhone, which is available in models with storage ranging from eight to 32 gigabytes, there’s only a single, eight-gigabyte Pre model ($199 with plan). Like the iPhone, there’s a built-in three-megapixel camera; unlike the higher-end iPhone models, it doesn’t shoot video.

    Call-quality is good – better than the iPhone’s. Battery life, however, is not so hot: plan on charging it up every night. Unlike the iPhone, however, the battery is removable and replaceable.

    In many ways, the Pre is the strongest iPhone competitor to date.

    In one area, though, the Pre is far behind: iPhone users can extend their device’s capabilities through access to tens of thousands of add-on programs from Apple’s App Store.

    Palm offers Pre users a similar-sounding App Catalog, but with only a few dozen offerings, pickings are pretty slim. Despite the slow start of Palm’s App Catalog, the Pre is a strong contender and a great addition to Bell Mobility’s smartphone lineup. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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