Palm at CES – What to expect?

All signs point to a significant and perhaps surprising event on Thursday at Palm’s scheduled press conference at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Last year was huge, of course, with Palm announcing the Pre and WebOS, and while it’s likely unrealistic to expect so much this year, recent signs are pointing to some welcome enhancements and news around WebOS, the Pre, and the Pixi.

Some speculation on what Palm might announce:

1. “Native” SDK: I’m not entirely sure what this means, except to say that it bodes well for future app development. This correlates well with my previous post on Palm’s strategy, and if true might explain why a number of business and gaming apps have yet to be ported to the Pre. I’m still looking forward to apps like Documents to Go by Dataviz, which was originally expected much sooner after the Pre’s release, and perhaps Palm has been working with developers such as Dataviz to announce the SDK and the resulting applications at the same time.

2. GPU support: Adding GPU support to WebOS would not only make more advanced gaming possible, but it would significantly enhance the performance of the user interface as well. Much has already been said about OpenGL libraries and SDL support being added in WebOS 1.3.5, and already a number of games have been ported to the Pre by the homebrew community. At this point, Palm will probably just confirm what everyone already expects, while perhaps rolling out a few high-end games in the App Catalog as demonstrations.

3. Video and voice recording: The plumbing for these (or, at least for video) was added in WebOS 1.3.1, and so it seems very likely that we’ll finally see video recording (at least) and voice recording applications announced at CES. GPU support, which would seem to improve video recording performance, might have been what Palm was waiting for in releasing what has been one of the most-requested features.

4. Developer Program: The App Catalog was removed from beta status with WebOS 1.3.5, and Palm is ready to take the Developer’s Program live. They’ll likely outline the new program at CES, including any SDK enhancements, deeper access to hardware (camera, microphone, etc.), and the ability to create a URL for distributing applications outside the App Catalog. It’s likely at we’ll see an avalanche of new applications as well.

5. Verizon and Pre/Pixi Plus Devices: Even if nothing else is announced, I think we’ll see Palm and Verizon announcing updated devices to be released soon on the Verizon network. I’m guessing we’ll see more memory in the Pre, and wifi in the Pixi. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess.

6. WebOS Update: As good as WebOS 1.3.5 has been, it has some very real issues including problems with EAS calendar syncing. Palm might (should?) announce and/or release an update that will add the video/voice recording app(s) mentioned above, some Synergy enhancements (MSN/Windows Live messaging, finally?) as well as needed fixes. Perhaps we’ll see WebOS 1.4.0 sooner rather than later?

The first week following the Winter holidays is already difficult enough. Adding in a highly anticipated CES announcement makes it that much more challenging. Fortunately, we’ll know soon enough just how aggressive Palm will be in making WebOS a more competitive device.

What do you think? Comment below…

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