Telefonica secures Pre in major Euro markets

Potential iPhone and Blackberry killer, the Palm Pre smartphone will be exclusively distributed in Europe by Telefonica's O2 and Movistar through  Britain, Ireland, Germany and Spain.

Palm announced that the Pre would be available before Christmas but did not detail pricing. It also announced that it would launch the Pre in Canada in the second half of the year with Bell Mobility.

The coveted distribution rights have been secured by O2 in the UK, Ireland and Germany, while Movistar has exclusivity in the Spanish market, Palm confirmed on Tuesday.

 "We are fast becoming the home of the smartphone with the addition of the hotly anticipated Palm Pre to our already extensive portfolio. Our customers will be the first outside of North America to experience one of the most successful mobile devices of the year,”  said Matthew Key, chairman and chief executive officer, Telefónica Europe.

Analysts have questioned whether the win is a coup for Telefonica, which will be facing a hard sell against already established iPhone, particularly in a market such as Germany where rival carriers have exclusive rights for each handset, T-Mobile has the iPhone.  

In Britain and Ireland  02 has the right to both the iPhone and now Pre while Spain’s Movistar enjoys the same handset exclusivity.

According to Changewave research released in June, Research In Motion  remains the US market  leader with 41% share of the smartphone market followed by Apple at 25% and Palm lagging behind at 7%.

Ovum analyst Tony Cripps suggests that the war will be won on applications, “where Apple’s App Store long ago surpassed one billion downloads and 50,000 apps, the Pre looks less well loved: at launch on Sprint’s US network, 18 applications were available in the Palm App Catalog with one million downloads.”

Cripps adds that application  developer support, as much as gratifying user experience, will make or break all these high-end device offerings and determine market share.