Palm Pre Imminent?

Palm Pre

Rumors continue to mount that the release of the long-awaited Palm Pre may be just around the corner — and as early as tomorrow.

Reports are circulating today that some Sprint Store employees have received received at least one of the new Palm (NASDAQ: PALM) smartphones — though the distribution has been limited to “advocates,” as employees are known who have been tapped to be the Palm point person for their location.

Meanwhile, other unconfirmed reports are racing around the blogosphere, fueled by rumors from a recent NASCAR event of which Sprint is a sponsor and in which an unnamed official declared that a for-sale date would be announced “within days.”

Neither Palm nor Sprint has released any details on when the Pre will go on sale, and a number of Sprint Stores and Best Buy employees from stores across the country contacted by said that they have not yet received shipments of the Pre — although some Best Buy stores have received Palm Pre accessories.

Store employees also told that the Pre could be arriving by the end of the week at the earliest, and by June 6 at the latest.

As a result, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Pre will go on sale tomorrow.

Still, Palm may still be feeling under the gun to make some sort of announcement about the Pre this week — ahead of rival Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) developer conference on June 6, where the iPhone maker is widely expected to discuss enhancements to or new models of the popular device.

Store reps contacted by also said that Best Buy has an exclusive deal to sell the Pre for 30 days — ahead of other retailers, including Sprint’s own stores.

In response to questions about the claim, Sprint spokespeople reiterated only that the company has not released an availability date for the Pre.

Despite the uncertainty over the Pre’s sale date, expectations remain high for the device. One store representative said the Pre is going to be “crazy-cool and blow the iPhone away.”

That bit of commentary is why all eyes are on Palm: Not only is the very existence of the once-pioneering handheld maker reliant on the success of the Pre, but the smartphone shows a great deal of promise, according to early reviews.

Most notably, the Pre uses a “Deck of Cards” feature that lets a user scroll through applications and toggle between them without having to open windows. The device’s operating system, webOS, also continually updates multiple applications in real-time and e-mail accounts, contact and calendar information in one interface. The design also features a full, slide-out keyboard in addition to a color touchscreen display.

Still, analysts have said Palm would be wise to start selling the Pre prior to any announcements of new iPhones. Industry observers also say Palm needs to focus on competitive pricing, strategic marketing of Sprint customers and applications to be successful.

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