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Linux smartphone crosses the Atlantic

Jul 7, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Palm will debut the Palm Pre in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, and Spain today, after selling over 370,000 of the Linux-based smartphones in the U.S., says eWEEK. Meanwhile, the phone's touted sync capability works fine on Ubuntu Linux desktops, according to a LinuxPlanet review.

Telefonica's O2 network will offer the Palm Pre exclusively in the U.K., Ireland, and Germany, starting today, says a Roy Mark story in eWEEK. The Pre is also said to be launching today in Spain, exclusively on the Movistar network. A Canadian launch with Bell Mobility is said to be scheduled for the second half of the year. As previously reported, Verizon Wireless plans to offer the phone in early 2009, as soon as Sprint's exclusive contract for the U.S. market terminates.

The eWEEK story describes an analyst note from Tony Cripps, principal analyst at consulting firm Ovum, as saying that Palm faces tough odds in Europe, where the super-popular Apple iPhone is available on three of Telefonica's networks. "If you're a Telefonica customer in the U.K., Ireland or Spain and you're in the market for an iPhone-style experience, the iPhone still looks the better bet," Cripps was said to have written.

Palm Pre

The Palm Pre appears to have sold well in the U.S. over the last month, despite competition from the new iPhone 3G S, which came out only a few days later. Unlike the O2 situation, the two phones are offered on separate networks, Sprint and AT&T, avoiding the side-by-side comparison Cripps was referring to. This may change, however, if rumors are true that AT&T will also try out a Pre launch in early 2010.

According to a story last week in eWEEK, Palm sold an estimated 370,000 Palm Pre phones, and is likely to sell 1 million units in the first quarter. The Michelle Maisto story attributes the figures to a blogger.

"The numbers suggest there may be something more at work than just a fly-by-night success," Maisto quotes Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, as saying in response to the report. "Early excitement might account for a few hundred thousand devices, but if you hit the 1 million mark, there's an indication that the vendor is doing something very right."

Sync or swim?

The strong early sales of the Pre haven't been hurt by the large number of positive reviews of the phone, with most reviewers stressing the sophistication of the Linux-based WebOS operating system. The latest, from LinuxPlanet, takes a look at the phone from a Linux desktop user's perspective, and finds that its vaunted synchronization feature "dances nicely" with Ubuntu Linux.

The Paul Ferrill review starts off by bemoaning the fact that the ability to sync with desktop PCs using iTunes doesn't apply to Linux desktops. (He also complains that the Palm WebOS SDK is not yet available for Linux, and with no promises from Palm on that score.)

Fortunately for the sync issues, he writes, Ubuntu's default music player Rhythmbox easily recognizes the Palm Pre as a music device. Ferrill encountered a few glitches with music sync, but also quickly found workarounds, and most features seemed to work consistently well. Syncing photos on the Pre with the F-Spot photo manager on Ubuntu, meanwhile, worked "flawlessly."

Ferrill concludes that the experience of managing media files on the Palm Pre from a Linux desktop "is not that bad for a version one product," he writes. "There are workarounds for any issues, and Linux offers a great platform for converting all those WMA audio files you have lying around on your old Windows machine."


The eWEEK story on the Palm Pre's European launch may be found here, and the eWEEK story on the first month's sales of the Pre should be here. The LinuxPlanet review of the Pre's synchronization capabilities for Linux desktops should be here.

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