Answers to burning Palm Pre questions

Here's the stuff they didn't mention during the keynote, including whether there will be a GSM version.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read
Palm Pre
The Palm Pre. Still no word on pricing. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
Updated 6:20 p.m. PT, to note that the Pre does have the technical ability to act as a modem for a laptop.

LAS VEGAS--As the device with the most mystery attached to it, there were plenty of questions left after Palm introduced its Pre on Thursday. I had a chance to sit down with Palm vice president Stephane Maes to get some (but not all) of the answers to my burning questions.

Palm's Pre preview

Here's a rundown of the basics of the touch-screen smartphone Palm announced at CES Wednesday. For more details, read our summary here.

New WebOS operating system
iPhone-like gestures, multitasking

Slide-out keyboard
Friendlier for e-mail, text?

Exclusive to Sprint
No GSM, no overseas roaming

Price unknown
Cost crucial for competition

Palm isn't answering the big question--how much will it cost--but Maes did say "we obviously know what all the prices are of the products that are out there and it will be competitive."

Although Sprint is the exclusive partner for launch, Palm is working on devices for other networks that will launch later, including a UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) version, though Maes would not say more about that device.

The Web browser is Palm-developed, but based on the WebKit engine. No word on Flash support, he said. Palm didn't give a lot of details on the media player, but Maes said Pre owners will be able to buy music from the device via the Amazon music store.

Maes said there will be some sort of app store for downloading add-on software. In general the company won't be trying to play gatekeeper.

"Certainly, we want to let a thousand flowers bloom," he said. "Every now and then there are a few dandelions we'll want to winnow out."

What else? Let's see. It's not a world phone. It does have the technical capability to be used as a tethered modem for a laptop. (The original story suggested it couldn't based on comments from Sprint that the feature wouldn't be made available).

It is Linux-based, though that is invisible for most developers as the tools to write applications are JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It won't natively run applications written for the original Palm OS, but Maes said "we anticipate there will be solutions to do so." And no word yet on battery life.

Got other questions? Send them my way and I will see what I can do to get them answered.

Photos: Palm previews the Pre at CES

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