iPhone Killer, Qu’est Que C’est? Maybe “Pre”

Palm, once king of all handhelds, released its highly-anticipated Pre smartphone–the first to be powered by the company’s new webOS operating system–over the weekend to rave reviews. But it’s not the twittering (or Twittering) of tech reviewers that caught my eye. I was struck by what Palm Executive Chairman Jon Rubinstein told Reuters:

“‘For us, the opportunity is not to take customers away from RIM or Apple,’ but rather to entice users of lower-level cell phones to upgrade to a more powerful smartphone.”

In other words, the Pre–not the Blackberry Storm, nor the next version of the iPhone expected to be announced this morning–could commoditize smartphones. This may ensure once and for all that mobile marketing (from SMS to mobile Web ads) is the essential way to reach consumers.

The new handset has a lot going for it: Offers the best of both touchscreen and QWERTY; software allows for easy multitasking; battery can be replaced by the owner her/himself.

Consumers seem to dig all this. Certain Sprint stores around the country sold out of the Pre on Saturday. That might be the dark lining of the silver cloud: Consumers, rather than the targeted corporate clients, are the ones excited about the Pre.

No, Palm’s flagship handset isn’t without its flaws, like the fact that it only works on CDMA networks (not good if Palm wants to enter the global smartphone race) and the dearth of third-party applications.

But consider that the Wall Street Journal’s Walt “Thank You Apple, May I Have Another” Mossberg says: “It’s a beautiful, innovative and versatile hand-held computer that’s fully in the iPhone’s class… I’ve been testing the Pre for a couple of weeks, and I like it a lot.”

Sounds like the Pre could have more going for it than the other smartphone big boys.