The rumour of O2 getting the worldwide exclusivity on retailing Palm's promising Pre smartphone first appeared in March, courtesy of Spanish newspaper, Expansion.
This has been all but confirmed by the Guardian which says that the Telefonica-owned company has managed to fend off competition from Vodafone and Orange to grab the Palm Pre franchise. The inability for Vodafone to sign Palm again must surely have left a sour taste for the company as it was faithful to Palm, having distributed Palm's Treo Pro over the years.
The Guardian also understands that the phone, which was launched in January, will be available before Christmas. Arguably, if this turns out to be indeed true, O2 will have both the iPhone and the Pre in its stable. The late UK launch of the product is explained by the limited availability of the Pre outside the UK. It will be distributed in the US via Sprint which will sell the smartphone on a two year contract for $199.99.
It looks as if O2 is pre-empting the possibility that Apple will end exclusivity distribution in the four original iPhone markets - US, UK, France and Germany. O2 may therefore have managed to get another next generation smartphone ahead of the onslaught of Android and Windows Mobile phones coming up.
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Palm has a very small window of opportunity and the late release date means that it could well be too little, way too late. We know that it will be released on time for Christmas and by then, all major manufacturers including HTC and Motorola, will have had dozens of touchscreen smartphones out on the market. This could well force Palm either to reduce its price or break its exclusivity clause.
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