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Palm chases Howard Stern for Pre marketing

In a high-profile marketing gamble, the radio host will get to demo Palm's new Pre smartphone, which is largely seen as a make-or-break product for the company.

This was originally posted at ZDNet's Between the Lines.

Palm's Pre is a make-or-break device, and the company is working the word-of-mouth marketing hard. And if you're going to get some word-of-mouth marketing, it helps to recruit one of the biggest mouths out there: Howard Stern.

Palm hasn't put a date on the Pre launch. Corrine Schulze/CNET

Stern is in the market for a phone and has been a loyal Treo user. He still has a Treo, but is embarrassed to show it given the technology is so old. In other words, Stern is the perfect Palm customer. He's been fiercely loyal, but has nothing new to get excited about until now. "I'm embarrassed to hold up my phone right now it's so old-school," he said Tuesday on his show. In a nutshell, Stern is very publicly auditioning phones. He's trying a BlackBerry, but has ruled out the iPhone due to its lack of a keyboard.

It's a very public test case for the Pre, and Palm is working the celebrity circuit to get a little iPhone-type buzz. The downside: it could also be disastrous if the Pre isn't easy to use. Let's face it. Stern isn't exactly as savvy as the Engadget gang.

Palm is getting Stern a demo Pre delivered to his home with a hands-on tutorial and then taking the top-secret device away.

"They're going to show me the Pre and then take it away. They're trying to build excitement for this thing. If people don't buy this, I don't see how Palm keeps going," said Stern. It should be noted that Stern is getting better access than the press has received to date with the Pre.

That's stating the obvious, but it's worth a gamble for Palm. A Stern stamp of approval on the Pre (Palm has already received a big chunk of air time this week) may go a little farther than the usual geek class fawning over it.