ActiveSync Makes the Palm Pre a Perfect Mobile Extension of Intermedia Hosted Exchange
Last week’s CES exposition generated lots of buzz and excitement around the new Palm Pre, set to launch in the first half of 2009. The excitement is understandable – if the Pre really includes all of the features touted during Palm’s CES showcase, gadget geeks who need a device for work, but also want one for play, may finally get their wish. Here’s a look at what’s being promised and why, if the rumors are true, the Pre will fully hit the mark where other devices have missed:
Smart integration of touch screen and keyboard
Yes, Google’s G1 offers touch screen and qwerty keyboard capability together. But the hardware design is clunky, making the phone’s main competitor, the iPhone, the clear form-factor winner. Both phones target a more consumer-focused audience, which has lighter email needs and thus values a keyboard less than the business-focused audience. BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion, who has dominated the business smartphone space, had a golden opportunity to integrate keyboard and touch screen. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry Storm seems to have seriously missed the mark. A BlackBerry without a full keyboard, or at least the slimed-down SureType keyboard used on the Pearl models, seems counterintuitive considering their email-intensive business-focused audience. Heavy emailers have been unsatisfied with the Storm’s touch screen keyboard and most reviews have even rated the Storm’s screen-based keyboard less user-friendly than the one on the iPhone, giving the new BlackBerry model very little to offer over Apple’s device.
With the Pre, Palm demonstrates that it understands its audience: business-focused users who are also consumers. Business users tend to use their devices heavily, especially outside of work and while travelling, and they need to be able to easily type out emails that are longer than three words, without fumbling around a touch screen keyboard we’re not familiar with. While no one has had the chance to truly test the device yet, it looks like Palm has provided this functionality in the form of a slide-out full qwerty keyboard, along with the much desired touch screen, well integrated into a sleek yet functional design.
ActiveSync push email capability for Exchange syncing
Yet another sign of Palm truly understanding its core audience. It took Apple a year to break down and include ActiveSync capability on the iPhone. Google’s G1 phone only offers Exchange connectivity through TouchDown, a $30.00 third-party application, that doesn’t even support true push email. In the past, Palm OS-based devices needed third party technology like Good Mobile Messaging to synchronize with Exchange, so it is nice to see Palm that has worked to integrate Exchange Activesync into its new OS. The use of ActiveSync makes syncing technology more accessible and less expensive for Exchange users. As a provider of hosted Exchange, Intermedia is able to offer its customers Microsoft Activesync capability on their mailbox for just $2.95 per month, which is far less than what we must charge for Good Mobile Messaging services, due to the higher licensing and additional infrastructure costs Intermedia has in delivering the service. This is a clear improvement for Palm.
Choice of networks
If this rumor is true, it’s perhaps the best yet. The Pre will launch on Sprint’s CDMA network, but we’re hearing that it will be available soon afterwards on other CDMA and GSM-based networks. For those of us who are resistant to change networks or who are locked into a contract, this is great news.
All the extras
The Pre comes with all of the extras that are now highly sought after in a smart phone: digital camera, built-in GPS, MP3 support, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless access, and even Bluetooth tethering for laptop modem capabilities. I’m struggling to think of a feature the phone is missing.
All in all, this phone is a big step for Palm and a necessary one for the company to stay relevant in the smartphone market. Historically, Palm has been one of the worst vendors when it comes to combining business and consumer devices, but with the Pre, they’ve finally given a nod to their business users’ second existence as a consumer. I, for one, am excited to try it out with hosted Exchange.