Palm Pre and Palm webOSPalm finally launched on Friday (Thursday, January 8 in the US) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas its new operating system, Palm webOS — codenamed Palm Nova — and Palm Pre, the first smartphone running on this OS.

It was a highly anticipated launch. Critics expected it to be Palm’s last attempt at fighting what they thought was an inevitable final slide to oblivion. On the other hand, Palm addicts — including Filipino makapalms who fought sleep to watch live streams of the presentation — must have prayed too hard that it would pave the way for Palm’s grand comeback.

We now know that what the world witnessed was a sweet surprise that, for Palm’s loyal fans, felt like a reward for sticking it out with their beloved brand even if most of their friends had already moved on and embraced apples and berries. In Las Vegas, cheers and applause welcomed Palm’s new OS and its first phone.

Palm webOS is for people like me — cybercreatures who live on the Net and throw their stuff in the cloud. It is “the first mobile platform to automatically bring your information from the many places it resides — on your phone, at your work or on the web – into one simple, integrated view,” says Palm. Its applications are built using standard web technologies like CSS, XHTML and JavaScript.

The lovely phone that runs on webOS — and got a general nod of approval of mobile users on the Web –  is called Pre (which rhymes with tree). It must be because both the OS and the phone, according to Palm, “are designed to be so in sync with your needs that it feels like Pre is thinking ahead for you.”

The Pre consolidates contacts and calendars from Google, Facebook, and Outlook. I just hope it could include my  Yahoo! messages and contacts.

The list of Pre’s features is like a fulfilled wish list from Palm fans and observers (and it  reminds me of Engadget’s 2007 open letter to Palm):

  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • High-speed connectivity (EVDO Rev. A or UMTS HSDPA)
  • 3-megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field
  • Bluetooth with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • standard 3.5mm headset jack
  • pictures, video playback, music
  • multitasking
  • Integrated GPS
  • 3.1-inch touch screen, 24-bit color 320×480 resolution HVGA display
  • Gesture area
  • Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
  • Email (Outlook EAS, POP3, IMAP)
  • IM, SMS and MMS capabilities
  • High-performance, desktop-class web browser
  • Removable, rechargeable battery
  • 8GB of internal user storage (~7.4GB user available)
  • USB mass storage mode
  • MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Proximity sensor and light sensor
  • Accelerometer, which automatically orients web pages and photos to your perspective
  • the classic Ringer switch

The Pre weighs around ~135 grams (4.76 ounces) and its dimensions are: 2.35 inches (W) x 3.96 inches (L, closed) x 0.67 inches (D).

Its downsides, for me, are the lack of memory expansion slot and of backward compatibility with old Palm OS apps. But then again, the 4 GB microSD card currently on my Centro is more than enough for my multimedia needs, and a third party emulator may eventually let me to run Bejeweled and FunSMS on the Pre.

Pre will initially be available only to US users on CDMA networks, so Pinoy makapalms like us will have more time to save for this.