This Weekend, the Smartphone World Grew More Competitive

Carl Weinschenk

The long wait for the Pre ends this weekend. The most immediate comparisons will be -- indeed, already have been-between the new Palm device and the Apple iPhone. Throw Research in Motion's BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and various other smartphones and OSes in the mix and the industry has, in the parlance of old-time baseball announcers, a "real barn burner."


But attention is on Pre v. iPhone, at least temporarily. CNET's Marguerite Reardon's look at the devices seems to come down in favor of the new entrant. The devices are close, though the Pre offers two key differentiators: A QWERTY keyboard and the ability to simultaneously run multiple applications. The most significant difference, the story says, is in the service plans. While the monthly plans are reasonably similar-and of course more easily tweaked than the phones themselves once marketers know which way the wind is blowing-the Pre comes in at a cheaper rate.

The bottom line in the Pre versus iPhone confrontation can be summed up in two words: Game On. PC World suggests that the hype that is attending the Pre launch is getting Apple's attention. The writer points out that a key in the near term will be the fact that the Pre is way behind Apple in the applications battle. The good news-actually, the great news-is that Steve Jobs is said to be on his way back and is rumored set to return as early as next week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference to introduce the next iPhone. What impact that may or may not have on the battle between the two companies is secondary to the speculation, which we hope is borne out, that Jobs is winning his health battle.

The impact that the Pre will have-both as a device in its own right and as a catalyst for an industry that still is young, expanding and unformed-is a subtext of this Seeking Alpha piece. The writer thinks that a successful Pre launch will force Apple to move beyond the AT&T network, since the existence of an innovative iPhone-like device on other networks will negate the motivation of people to switch. The iPhone, in other words, will no longer be the only game in town. The writer also suggests that the Pre has some significant, and not particularly positive, ramifications for the BlackBerry.

The Pre will be used informally by business people from the start. Down the road, enterprise-specific packages will become available. How quickly those versions become available will depend, at least to some extent, on the success the Pre has in its first few months in the market.

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