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.

Mine.

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.

Sprint Music Store – A Stupid Business Model Smartens Up

upstage.jpgI thought the idea of music delivery via mobile phone was cool until I saw the price tag. Whoever dreamed up this business must have been looking back with greedy eyes at the compact disc’s birth. In 1983, no one gave a second thought to paying twice the price of a vinyl album for a CD.

But when iTunes launched, the price of an album actually went down, to $9.99 or less. Of course, songs were famously sold for 99 cents each.

So what did Sprint do when it rolled out the first mobile phone music store in 2005? Priced songs at $2.49 each. Music was delivered slower and at a higher price.

Brilliant.

Sprint honchos thought things were going swimmingly back then, but total track sales to date are a paltry 15 million. So this week Sprint announced they were cutting the price to … wait for it … 99 cents a track.

More brilliant.

A few additional features in Sprint’s press release are even more interesting to me. Sprint Radio offers up to 50 music streams, and there’s also a free music page with 10 songs a month.

Spring also announced that Samsung’s new two-faced Upstage phone will ship in April, and there’s five other Sprint Music Store-compatible phones offered at 99 bucks, with a 2-year agreement.

Of course, long-time Sprint customers (like me) are out of luck there. Is it just me, or are most cell phone providers completely backwards? They punish loyal customers and give great deals to people they’ve never met.

It sounds like the dating game back before I got married.

One more thing – Sprint’s press release attempts again to flog the only idea dumber than 3 dollar a whack songs and ring tones – cell phone television. Good luck on that one.