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Tech Report – Palm Pre To Go On Sale June 6

Sprint and Palm have finally announced the pricing and release date for the much-anticipated Palm Pre smartphone. The Pre will be available nationwide on Saturday, June 6 for $199.99, after a mail-in rebate of $100 and with a two-year Sprint data plan. In addition to Sprint stores, the Pre will be sold online and at Best Buy, Radio Shack and some Wal-Mart stores.

The Pre was widely acclaimed as the “best-in-show” pick at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the tech community has been waiting for the pricing and launch date information ever since. The webOS-based smartphone has been tipped as a challenger to Apple’s iPhone in the non-business market and is expected to make Palm relevant again after years of relative decline.

The Pre has huge appeal in both design and functionality. The multi-touch screen is easy to navigate and you can use finger swipes and touches to launch menus, toolbars and applications. The screen has brilliant color and resolution and you can pinch the screen to zoom in and out. Best of all, the Pre also features a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard that will be the envy of every iPhone owner!

Palm’s webOS operating system connects all the applications on the phone to the web, allowing for constant updates without any manual intervention or downloads. The Palm Synergy™ application allows you to consolidate your contacts from various locations – Outlook, Google, Facebook – into a unified contact list. It does the same for calendars and photos, eliminating duplications and making it easier to find previously stored information.

The Pre also allows you to open and move between multiple applications, similar to how you would use a computer or notebook. Like the iPhone and the BlackBerry, the Pre let’s you take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots and look up points of interest using GPS. There is a 3 megapixel camera with LED flash but, as of right now, no video capability.

It looks like Palm plans to open up the Pre for developers and build an app store, but with the iPhone’s head-start in this area (35,000 apps and counting) it’s unlikely Palm will ever catch up. Where they will compete handily is on price. At $199.99 after rebate, the Pre is right in line with the 8GB iPhone, and Sprint’s Simply Everything Plan also matches up with AT&T’s unlimited voice and data plan at $99.99 per month.

The Pre will certainly score on style and flexibility points and there’s no doubt its functionality stacks up well against the iPhone…for now. As many commentators have pointed out, Apple doesn’t stand still for very long and its Worldwide Developers Conference is scheduled for June 8, just two days after the Pre hits the stores. Watch out for Apple to flex its muscles and hit back with some announcements of its own!

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