Pre flight – getting my Palm Pre

Picture 1There’s a good reason why I was sitting in front of Best Buy at 6 AM last Saturday morning, watching a street sweeper noisily brush the pavement, waiting for the doors to open in four hours.

The only Palm Pre within 70 miles was inside, and I was determined to make it mine.

Let’s back up a bit.

Within days of upgrading my Sprint phone two years ago, I had buyer’s remorse.  The new HTC Mogul was sexy, with a sliding keyboard, landscape view web pages and GPS.  But sometimes I missed my old Palm Treo.

Sure, the stub antennaed device was a bit dowdy, and boxy as a Volvo, but in hindsight it was more reliable than the Windows Mobile device that replaced it.  The afflicted Mogul was given to sporadic battery losses and system lockups.

Two years later, I was due for a trade-in and ripe to be won back.

When Palm unveiled the Pre in January, it pulled at my heartstrings like an old lover who’d spent two years at the gym, emerging with trim, sleek lines.

An engineering team led by ex-Apple iPod honcho Jon Rubenstein built the Palm Pre.  It features a gesture-driven touch screen (similar enough to Apple’s to fuel lawsuit speculation), a new multitasking operating system called WebOS, and something the iPhone doesn’t have – a sliding keyboard.

As the June 6 launch approached, I hung on every YouTube video, added the Everything Pre blog to my Twitter feed, and tried every trick I could muster to get an early hands-on demo, to no avail.

I soon learned that winning the object of my desire would take more than ordinary efforts.  Sprint CEO Dan Hesse warned of shortages, and when I asked about local availability of the device, company spokesman told me “inventory questions are proprietary.”

Late last week, I found out why.   Best Buy’s allocation, according to a leaked company document, was a paltry 4,200 units – for the entire chain.   My local store, it turned out, received just one.


After signing the paperwork and swiping my MasterCard, I left with my new electronic jewel.  Was it worth the wait?

In a word, yes.

Tomorrow: Hands on with the Palm Pre.