CES: New Palm looks good, but there's a huge hurdle to clear

Palm this morning unveiled their new operating system and a slick new handset to go with it. On first glance, it looks like something I'd like to carry and make my mobile hub. On further inspection, however, there's a big "Oh, No!" moment that quickly followed.

The launch partner for the new Palm Pre (the "e" has the obligatory bar above it, signifying a "long e") is Sprint. I don't care how cool the thing is, I won't be changing carriers to become an early adopter. I'll wait for the GSM version that will work on the AT&T network, thankyouverymuch.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse joined the braintrust of Palm to announce the new, feature-packed "phone" that I think has the potential to give iPhone a run for their money. The new Palm Web Operating System, along with it's slide-down full QWERTY keyboard, ability to run multiple applications simultaneously and a bevvy of other features make the Pre the hot item of CES - for me at least.

If Palm really wanted to be innovative, they would have launched the Pre on all carriers at once. By forcing folks to a particular carrier -- no matter how good, or weak -- they do a disservice to the consumer. I know now how the non-AT&T customers felt when the iPhone was launched. Even though I still don't carry an iPhone, I know that I can make the change at any time.

For the record, the smartphone that hangs on my belt is a Palm Treo 680. I've used Palm devices for at least 10 years and have had every version of the Treo. I want to stick with Palm. I want the new Pre. I want it on AT&T. I want it now.

Since the device won't be available until "sometime in the first half of the year," I'll most likely be sticking with my Treo 680 for a while longer. Maybe Sprint will make me an offer I can't say "no" to. Chances are, though, that I'll be waiting at least a year for the Pre that fits MY needs.

You can read more about the Pre at the Palm site (http://www.palm.com/us), provided you can get there. My browser couldn't complete the connection, so be patient.