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Palm Launches WebOS-Based PDA Phone

Palm plans first-half availability through Sprint of its new Pre PDA phone, the first PDA phone built on a new operating system developed by Palm and called WebOS.

Sprint will offer the phone exclusively for an undisclosed period of time at a price that also wasn’t disclosed. A version for GSM/W-CDMA networks is also under development.

The 3G phone, equipped with 3.1-inch touchscreen and slide-down QWERTY keyboard, features a motion user interface that lets consumers execute basic navigation functions through finger swipes and gestures. Unlike other PDA phones, however, users can run multiple live applications simultaneously like a desktop or laptop computer. The phone stacks multiple live screens on top of one another like a deck of cards instead of minimizing screens as PCs and laptops do. Consumers swipe a finger across the top card to “deal” it away, revealing the card underneath. Users can also stack multiple live Web pages or multiple email messages on top of one another.

A feature called Synergy aggregates contact lists, calendar items and email messages from multiple sources, including Web-based sources. The contact list, for example, automatically combines contacts lists from a user’s Outlook, Facebook, Google and other contact lists. The calendar function automatically aggregates a user’s Outlook, Google and Facebook calendars, then displays appointments from all of the calendars at once. If the user chooses to display only one calendar at a time, the phone still indicates that certain times are booked on the other calendars. Multiple email inboxes are also aggregated, as are multiple instant-messaging accounts.

The OS also enables a universal search function that lets users type in words to search for information stored in any application on the phone. If the information isn’t stored in the phone, the phone automatically searches the Web for the data through Google.

The OS also displays notifications of email, instant messages and appointments when a user is in another application.

Unlike other PDA phone operating systems, WebOS lets applications developers use standard Web-development tools to write third-party applications, enabling any of the more than 10 million Web developers to design applications for the platform, said president/CEO Ed Colligan.

Other phone features include 802.11b/g, stereo Bluetooth EDR 2.1, 8GB of built-in memory, GPS for turn-by-turn driving instructions, 3-megapixel camera, removable battery and accelerometer to automatically put the screen into portrait or landscape mode when turned.