More details of the Palm Pré's functionality have emerged at the D:All Things Digital conference in San Diego, including iTunes integration and a Twitter client, not to mention promises of a GSM version suitable for an 2009 European launch.
The fact that the device still isn't on the shelves didn't stop Palm's Jon Rubinstein demonstrating the application store and explaining how the Pre will, literally, replace an iPod when it comes to working with iTunes before going on to explain how universal search feature now considers Twitter to be a legitimate part of the universe.
The Pré will only pull DRM-free iTunes content out of iTunes - it tells the desktop application that it's an iPod that doesn't support DRM. So CDs you've ripped yourself and iTunes Plus content is fine, not to mention all those bit-torrented tunes imported into Apple's media player.
Quite how Apple will react is unknown - defending its monopoly is dodgy ground, but some breach of patent or copyright (on the protocol) could yet emerge. Or else the boys in Cupertino could just play dirty and make their protocol a moving target to stop the Pre in its tracks; or perhaps they won't care.
But it's not just media integration that Palm has managed to stuff into the Pré at the last moment. Not prepared to rely solely on Wikipedia for authoritative content, Palm Pré users will also be able to search the great knowledge pool that is Twitter as part of the device's universal search capability. Universal search is a function that starts out looking on the device, and spreads its attention wider until the user interacts and appears satisfied - though it's hard to see how finding a result on Twitter would satisfy anyone.
The Pré's monopolistic application store was also shown at the conference. Downloadable Palm apps are all AJAX-based, developed using the Mojo SDK and signed by Palm for distribution exclusively through their own application store. Palm has a load of AJAX extensions to allow interaction with the device, in a similar manner to OMTP's BONDI, though not compatible of course - that would be too easy.
One example demonstrated was a Pandora client, with great emphasis placed on the multitasking ability of the Pré: Pandora happily streaming music in the background and posting notifications of track changes to the home screen. Ironic, really; the original Palm OS excelled at just the kind of task-switching that makes the iPhone usable, but these days everyone is multitasking - and even if most customers don't know what it means, Apple is going to have to go along with the trend soon.
When it comes to Europe, Rubinstein confirmed that a GSM-friendly version of the Pré would be available "in a few months". That chimes well with the idea of O2 launching the device in the UK in time for Christmas, though it's hard to imagine the company will be able to raise the money for a significant manufacturing run unless the US launch goes smoothly. ®