Update 7:55 a.m. PDT: Comments from Dan Hesse's presentation at the press event here have been added to this story.
NEW YORK--Verizon Wireless's claims that it will be offering the Palm Pre within six months are not accurate, says Sprint Nextel's CEO Dan Hesse.
"They need to check their facts," Hesse said in an interview at a press event here to launch the Palm Pre. "That just is not the case. Both Palm and Sprint have agreed not to discuss the length of the exclusivity deal. But I can tell you it's not six months."
Last week, Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless was quoted by Reuters as saying that over the next six months consumers could expect to see devices "like the Palm Pre and a second-generation Storm" on its network.
AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson also said last week that he hoped to have the Palm Pre on the AT&T network when the exclusivity deal with Sprint ended.
The Pre, which was announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is expected to be Sprint's flagship smartphone. And the company has high hopes that the device, which will be sold only on Sprint's network starting Saturday, would help the troubled carrier improve its image and retain customers who might be tempted to defect to AT&T for the iPhone. Early reviews of the product have been positive with many reviewers, including CNET's own Bonnie Cha, calling the phone a good alternative to iPhone.
But claims that the Pre exclusivity deal with Sprint would only last six months had undermined expectations about what the Pre could do for Sprint.
Indeed , there is a lot riding on the success of the much-hyped Palm Pre for Sprint. The companyto repair its badly damaged reputation as a wireless provider that offers poor customer support and unreliable network performance. But Hesse said during his presentation here at the launch event that the company has improved on all fronts over the past year. And he called the Pre launch the debut of a transformed Sprint.
"We are very different company than we were 12 months ago," he said. "And the Pre is the coming-out party for the new Sprint that shows off our fantastic data network and rate plans."
Hesse told the audience of customers and press that for 15 consecutive months consumers' satisfaction with Sprint's customer service has gone up. And he added that the company has refocused attention on improving its network and has actually been cited by independent consumer surveys as the most reliable 3G network on the market.
Hesse also emphasized Sprint as a value player in the market. Specifically, he said that subscribers signing up forover competing plans for smartphones offered by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
But he also acknowledged that Sprint has a long way to go to convince the public that it has turned a corner. He cited an internal survey that found that subscribers who used the company's service within the past year rated the service very positively. But subscribers who hadn't used the service within the past year had a somewhat negative perception of the service.
"We have this gap," he admitted. "(But) if you look at the changes in what we provide to customers in terms of the quality of the network and the customer experience, as well as, the rate plans we offer, this is a very different company than it was a year ago."