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Palm Pre Grabs Limelight Before New iPhone Rolls In

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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With Apple’s new iPhone to be announced any time now, Palm made the most of its launch window

The Palm Pre is now available in the US – just before today’s Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference brings a much-rumoured iPhone upgrade.

The Pre, touted as the iPhone’s first real competition has been launched by US carrier Sprint, which both companies see as a much-needed endorsement after recent struggles. However, the WWDC is expected to bring a new iPhone – and reports in the Financial Times and elsewhere have suggested announcements will include a “junior” iPhone costing around $149 (£94), and the imminent return of Steve Jobs to the leadership of Apple once again.

On 6 June, Reuters reported that enthusiastic crowds had gathered by several Sprint stores in major cities with people willing to pay cash for the new Palm Pre. The report also noted that the crowds were smaller than those seen when a new Apple iPhone had been announced.

Steve Jobs has been on leave since January 2009 and is reportedly not giving today’s keynote. The rumoured cheap iPhone may cost as little as $99 (£63) according to inside sources quoted in the Financial Times.

Why should Apple cut prices?

But others say it’s too soon for Apple to cut prices: “I would be very surprised to see Apple make a low-cost move,” said Michael Oh, president of Boston-based Apple specialist Tech Superpowers. “Apple generally doesn’t leap down to the lower price point until everybody else has landed there – I don’t see the low-cost iPhone happening this time around.”

Apple is doing very well at the moment, and its high margins have given the phone a leading share of smartphone revenue, despite the 17 million devices sold making up a small proportion of the world’s phones.

The possibility of an iPhone roadmap today will excite developers more than consumers, said Oh: “This is the WWDC, so for all the places to tell 3.0 as the next platform for developers to latch onto, this is obviously the best place to do it,” he said. “We’re not going to see things where people are leaping up and down in the consumer space, and the developers behind doors are going to be saying, this is great, and look what we can do with the possibilities.”