The Palm Pre smartphone has generated an enormous amount of excitement since it was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Since then, all eyes have been on the Pre's exclusive U.S. operator, Sprint Nextel, for a launch date. That came this week. Now that the June 6 launch date is set, the big questions center on how the device will actually perform in the competitive smartphone marketplace. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said there will be Pre shortages for a while, but is confident that there is a enough demand for the Pre that Sprint does not have to mount a major advertising campaign for the phone.
Here's what a few industry analysts are predicting about the Pre's upcoming debut:
How do you think the Pre will perform in the market once it is launched?
"I think the product can be successful at Sprint. And I think it will be in the early going.
"If the product is going to be a significant success, it will be determined after the first 30 days--whether it has the staying power to continue sales with increased competition coming to market.
"The bigger thing for Palm and webOS is when and how it makes it to other larger operators. That will determine whether they're successful or not. It will have to have success at Sprint, but it will also have to have success at other operators where their handset portfolio is much more competitive." --Hugues de la Vergne, principal research analyst for Gartner
"It's as close to the iPhone as I have seen any device. The screen is very responsive. It works really, really well. ... We'll see what iPhone 3.0 offers. Competing against Apple is always a moving target, especially in June.
"It should do very well for the Sprint base. It might actually be able to persuade some Verizon [Wireless] and T-Mobile [USA] users to come over. It should help Sprint stem the losses. The weakness is that the app store is embryonic.
"A significant amount of value in the device is also the software. It's like having a PC and the only thing you have is Paint and Minesweeper and Notepad. Oohh. But what really helps is if you have the Simply Everything plan. Then this becomes a better user experience than the standard feature phone that Sprint has. You have the opportunity to have all of the applications that will hopefully get developed. This is the device that the Simply Everything plan was designed for.
"The [Samsung] Instinct pales in comparison the Pre. And it was the best-selling Sprint phone that they had in history." --Roger Entner, senior vice president of Nielsen's communications sector
"There's no question that it's a very competitive smartphone. It's very well designed. I think, in my mind, the phone itself can be successful based on hardware and OS. The two huge factors that would actually determine its overall success will be, one, how many software developers back the product. Because ultimately these devices are only as good as the software and the applications that are on them. The second piece of the puzzle is getting traditional Verizon and AT&T customers willing to jump to Sprint.
"As you know, Sprint has had financial problems. Consumers are fairly aware that Sprint, at the financial level, is at a weaker level than someone like AT&T or Verizon. In our early surveys that was one of the biggest concerns. People who were fairly happy with Verizon or AT&T were struggling with the idea of going to the Sprint network, given Sprint's overall lack of strength.
"When this thing comes out it better work. One of my actual fears is that it may have been rushed to market because of internal investor pressure. ... Having said that, they [Palm] know how to manufacture products. ... If they say it's ready, it's ready." --Tim Bajarin, president and principal analyst for Creative Strategies
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