The most striking aspect of Palm's new gadget is that it is absolutely tiny. Palm CEO Ed Colligan's hand dwarfed it at today's press conference at the Digital Life show in NYC. Not only is it tiny, it is positively a consumer-focused device.The pitch given to the media was spot on. Of the 160 million cell phones sold annually in the U.S., just 5%, or 8 million, are smartphones. This is a powerful 5%, though, as it demands all the attention of the media and enterprise. Just look at the media phenomenon that the iPhone created since the day it was announced.
Despite the attention given to the smartphone market, Palm is restrategizing and targeting this new device at the remaining 95% of the market. With its $99 price point, it's being positioned as a phone for digital media consumers and creators who want keyboard-enabled communications devices without the smartphone, or business productivity, stigma. (As powerful as they are, Treos, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones are just not cool to whip out on a Saturday night.)
Palm and Sprint worked together to integrate the media applications and Web browser so it will be easier to share pictures, videos and other content. Of course, it still uses the Blazer Browser, which requires Web sites to be reformatted before they can be viewed on the device. This makes the EV-DO data radio similar to a V-8 that is only firing perhaps 4 or 6 cylinders at a time.
Browsing speeds aside, the Centro sports most of the features you'd expect on a media-focused phone. CEO Colligan did take one thinly veiled jibe at the iPhone, saying, "The Centro is no EDGE device."
The Centro is a new foray for Palm. One that is is late in doing. Its competitors -- Nokia, Motorola, RIM, others -- already have launched consumer-focused devices that do many if not all of the same things as the Centro.
Its attractively low price point will be one small thing in the Centro's favor. That's at least a start.