With the announcement today that Palm's Pre smartphone will be available exclusively on O2's network in the UK (at least for a while), yet another worst-kept secret of the mobile industry was confirmed.
Reports pointing to O2 as the chosen European carrier started to circulate earlier this year, almost as soon as the Pre was unveiled at the CES show in Las Vegas, yet as recently as last week, both O2 and Palm continued to label this as mere speculation.
More worrying for Palm is the long delay before UK buyers will be able to get their hands on the Pre. At the moment, the Pre looks like one of the hottest handsets around, offering a modern, gesture-based user interface like that of Apple's iPhone, yet the Pre is smaller and offers a slide-out Qwerty keyboard for easier messaging.
However, the iPhone 3GS is available to buy now, while the Pre is currently only available in the US. Several other interesting new smartphones, such as the Samsung i7500 and Toshiba's TG01, will also hit the streets here long before the Pre is available. Who knows what else might emerge before Christmas?
This problem isn't restricted to Palm, of course. One V3.co.uk staffer commented recently that Nokia's N97 handset would have been a "killer device" if it had shipped soon after its unveiling in December 2008. Instead, it didn't show up until June this year, by which time it had already been eclipsed by the excitement over the new iPhone.
O2 said that it wanted to ensure everything necessary gets put in place before the Pre goes on sale in the UK, which is a laudable goal. But in the fast-moving world of today's smartphone market, the danger is that the Pre could be overshadowed by newer devices by the time customers get the chance to purchase one.
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