Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

WebMD.com/heart-disease, by Miranda Hitti– Sleeping an extra hour may do your heart good, a new study shows.

In the study, every extra hour of sleep was associated with a 33% drop in participants’ odds of developing coronary artery calcification over five years.

In the long run, that might cut their risk of heart attack or other heart “events,” though longer studies are needed to check on that, the researchers note in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

About Coronary Artery Calcification

The study is all about tracking new cases of coronary artery calcification among nearly 500 middle-aged U.S. adults over a five-year period.

The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle. In coronary artery disease, plaque builds up inside coronary arteries’ walls, narrowing the arteries. Calcium is one of the components of plaque. The more plaque that is present, the more calcium is present in the walls of heart arteries. So measuring coronary calcium can be used as a surrogate for measuring plaque.

Sleep Habits

At the beginning of the study, participants got their coronary arteries scanned using computed tomography (CT) at the beginning and end of the study.

Participants also wore devices on their wrists for six days at the study’s start to measure their activity, and they provided information on their sleep habits.

The group averaged about six hours of nightly sleep. Few people slept for more than eight hours per night, report the University of Chicago’s Christopher Ryan King, and colleagues.

Longer Sleep, Less Calcification

Participants got another coronary artery CT scan at the end of the five-year study. About 12% had developed coronary artery calcification.

People who slept longer — as confirmed by their wrist monitors — were less likely to have developed coronary artery calcification.

“One hour more of sleep decreased the estimated odds of calcification by 33%,” King’s team writes.

Those findings take into consideration participants’ age, sex, race, education level, smoking, and sleep apnea risk.

King and colleagues call for further studies to confirm the results, to learn how sleep duration is linked to coronary artery calcification, and to figure out exactly how much sleep is best for reducing coronary artery calcification risk.

Laura Pedrick for The New York Times

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Patsy Brandt, preparing for chemotherapy.

The New York Times, by Gina Kolata — IT is a question that occurs to almost everyone who becomes seriously ill: Should you go to your local hospital or would you do better if you went to a major medical center? It may mean a long trip when you are ill and it will almost certainly mean seeing doctors who are strangers to you. But what if going to a major medical center makes the difference between life and death? Patients reach different conclusions, based often on gut feelings about a doctor or a hospital. And medical researchers, looking for data, say they are not always certain themselves about how to decide.

“There really is very, very little information,” says Dr. Elliott S. Fisher, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., who studies medical outcomes. “It’s the great weakness of all the efforts to foster consumer engagement in health care decision making.”

But there are a few hints, he and others say, and the answers from the studies so far have sometimes been a surprise.

For some common illnesses, there may be no difference in outcomes between community hospitals and academic medical centers, ones that are connected to medical schools and that serve as referral centers for patients with the most complicated, difficult cases. For heart surgery, what matters appears to be the surgeon’s experience, not the number of such patients at the hospital. But for some cancers, the important factor seems to be the total number of patients with that cancer at a hospital, not the number any particular surgeon sees.

Everyone agrees that medical statistics are not the only issue. People want to like and trust their doctors. And with a community hospital, patients have the convenience of staying close to home and may be more likely to receive warm, personal care.

That was an important consideration for Mary Bruce Buchanan, a 60-year-old retired real estate broker from Flemington, N.J., whose decision about where to go for cancer care went against her own upbringing. Her father, a surgeon, had trained at the University of Pennsylvania and, she said, “when anything was really wrong, that was where you went.”

But when Ms. Buchanan received a diagnosis of breast cancer a few years ago, she stayed with the local doctor who found her tumor, Dr. Rachel P. Dultz, at University Medical Center, a community hospital in Princeton, N.J. She just had a good, warm feeling about Dr. Dultz, she said, and could not imagine that she would receive better care from anyone else.

“If I went to a Sloan-Kettering, I’m sure there are fabulous people there, but you’ve got to have total confidence in the person who’s going to be taking care of you,” Ms. Buchanan said.

Patsy Brandt of Cherry Hill, N.J., came to the opposite conclusion. She went to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and never investigated any other options for her breast cancer treatment.

“It’s sort of a no-brainer when one lives in a doable radius of a major teaching and research hospital,” Mrs. Brandt said.

Mrs. Brandt, who is 63, says that after her initial diagnosis and a lumpectomy, she went to the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital and she became a patient of Dr. John Glick. She had radiation treatments and chemotherapy at Penn and is now going through more chemotherapy there because her cancer has spread.

“I never considered going anywhere else,” Mrs. Brandt said. “Dr. Glick is at the top of his research game, and from the beginning he instilled great confidence in me and my family.”

Other patients, Dr. Glick said, are eager to return to their local doctors for chemotherapy and follow-up care, and he encourages it whenever he thinks it is appropriate. Penn has a network of community physicians, and other academic hospitals, like Memorial Sloan-Kettering, have suburban satellite centers.

“We try to get patients back into our network of community physicians if we think the same care can be given,” Dr. Glick said. If there is a specialized surgical technique or treatment that is available only at Penn, though, he encourages patients to stay at Penn for that treatment.

But many people, including doctors, wonder if they should plan ahead for medical emergencies or for a sudden diagnosis of a serious disease and, if so, how.

That is what troubled Dr. Peter K. Lindenauer, an internist and medical researcher at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. At parties and at family gatherings, he said, friends, relatives and acquaintances often sidled up to him and asked for advice about where to go for medical care. He would tell them that if they had something as common as pneumonia or needed surgery for something as mundane as a hernia, they probably would do at least as well at a small local hospital as they would at a major medical center. But, he said, “those comments were based more on gut than on actual evidence.”

He decided to look for proof.

Dr. Lindenauer and his colleagues began looking at national data on two common conditions: pneumonia, the fifth-leading cause of death in America, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema and is the fourth-leading cause of death. “When we think about bread-and-butter medical problems, these are the classic ones,” Dr. Lindenauer said.

In both cases, the investigators found, patients at community hospitals fared at least as well as those at academic medical centers.

With pneumonia, for example, patients are supposed to receive antibiotics within four hours of being admitted to the hospital. “If you go to a community hospital, you had an 72 percent chance of getting your antibiotics within four hours of hitting the door,” Dr. Lindenauer said. “If you go to the large teaching hospital, you have a 56 percent chance.”

“Our study wasn’t able to answer why,” Dr. Lindenauer added, but he said he has a hunch. “A routine case of pneumonia may not command all of the resources and personnel of the emergency room in the way it might in a community hospital.”

The study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease came to the same conclusion: The hospitals that took care of more of these patients really did no better than the hospitals that took care of fewer, he said.

Other common medical conditions have not been systematically studied, but Dr. Lindenauer said he would not be surprised if the same held true — community hospitals will be at least as good as major medical centers for ordinary illnesses.

“A colleague of mine drew an analogy to driving and the idea that you just need to be a good enough driver to avoid accidents,” he said. Beyond that, he said, “we don’t really differentiate that much between great and good enough.”

The situation is different for more-complex matters like heart surgery and cancer care, researchers say. In such cases, where you go can matter — a lot, depending on the condition.

“Not that I want to oversimplify to this degree, but for cardiovascular care, pick a very busy, high-volume surgeon,” said Dr. John D. Birkmeyer, a professor of surgery at the University of Michigan who has analyzed Medicare data. “For cancer care, focus on the hospital.”

The heart surgery data were clear, he said. The patients who did best were those whose surgeons were most experienced. Some busy doctors at community hospitals had better results than less-busy doctors at major medical centers.

“High-volume surgeons at lower-volume hospitals did just as well as high-volume surgeons at high-volume centers,” Dr. Birkmeyer said.

“And even if you were already at a high-volume hospital, it mattered if you chose a high-volume surgeon,” he added. “I think it’s partly to do with the complexity of the procedure. How well you will do in the short and long term after a cardiovascular operation is often a function of how well your operation gets done.”

“But what we found with many or most of the cancer operations was very different,” Dr. Birkmeyer said. A patient’s chance of dying during or just after surgery was more related to the number of operations the hospital did and less to the number of operations the surgeon did. And, he reports in a paper that will soon be published in Annals of Surgery, cancer patients who go to hospitals that have more patients with their type of cancer also have better long-term survival.

With esophageal cancer, for example, “you literally double your odds by going to a high-volume center,” Dr. Birkmeyer said.

The five-year survival rate for patients going to hospitals that did four or fewer esophageal operations a year was 17 percent. The five-year survival rate for patients going to hospitals that did more than 14 operations a year was 34 percent.

Dr. Robert J. Downey, a thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said he stopped doing operations for esophageal cancer because he was doing only about one a month, not enough, he decided, for optimal results. Yet Dr. Birkmeyer’s study finds that fully a third of patients have the operation at hospitals doing four or fewer such surgeries in a year. It may not matter, Dr. Downey said, whether someone with esophageal cancer “goes to a Memorial Sloan-Kettering or a Columbia-Presbyterian,” two of New York’s teaching hospitals. What matters, he said, is whether they go to a hospital that does more than just a few operations. With breast cancer, Dr. Birkmeyer said, women who go to medical centers that see large numbers of such patients tend to live longer than women who go to centers that see fewer.

“There is a lot of controversy as to why,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thinks it has to do with the skill of the surgeon doing the original operation.” Instead, Dr. Birkmeyer explained, the key may be the tumor board, a group of medical specialists who review each patient’s proposed treatment program. At medical centers that see large numbers of patients, the tumor boards, he said, “may be better at matching patients with therapies.”

“The totality of evidence leaves little doubt that for most serious cancers, you improve your outlook by going to an experienced center,” Dr. Birkmeyer said.

Yet, Dr. Downey said, most of his patients do not ask about such things. “And when they do, they’re apologetic,” he said. Instead, they tell him they went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering because a local doctor told them to, or because they know someone who was treated there and did well. The most common reason, though, is the hospital’s famous name. “As soon as they hear the word ‘cancer,’ they head for Memorial,” Dr. Downey said.

That was a major reason why Daniel McGillicuddy, one of Dr. Downey’s patients, went there. He had decided, he said, that he just did not trust his local Long Island hospital, and he knew a doctor at Sloan-Kettering who could give him a reference to a thoracic surgeon.

Mr. McGillicuddy, who is 72, developed bladder cancer about a decade ago and was treated near his Oyster Bay home. Then he found out he had lung cancer. “I wasn’t staying locally,” he said. “I had had a couple of bad experiences at the local hospital.” One time, he said, he had a bad reaction to anesthesia with a colonoscopy and collapsed. After he returned home, he said, “the gastroenterologist never called to find out if I was still alive.”

He went to Dr. Downey and never left. He developed two separate lung cancers, which Dr. Downey removed, and is surviving with just one lung, but doing well.

“At my age, you adjust to things,” he said.

But in Princeton, Dr. Dultz’s patient, Ms. Buchanan, is just as devoted to her and to the hospital there.

Dr. Dultz said she encouraged her patients to seek second opinions, but only half do, and nearly all decide to stay at the Princeton hospital. As a result, Dr. Dultz said, she ends up operating on about 200 women a year, which puts her and the hospital into the high-volume category. Those who leave for major medical centers tell her they were persuaded by other family members, she added.

A small hospital offers more than the mechanics of medicine, Dr. Dultz said. She tries to always be there for her patients, giving out her home phone number and her cell phone number, meeting patients in the emergency room, coming into her office to see patients early in the morning or after her staff has left for the day.

Ms. Buchanan said that sort of care made all the difference for her.

After learning she had cancer, she decided to have both breasts removed. She had a strong family history of breast cancer and was terrified that she might get cancer in her other breast. And she decided to have breast reconstruction at the same time as her mastectomies.

Dr. Dultz and Dr. Marc Alan Drimmer, a Princeton plastic surgeon, did the operation.

“When I woke up after the surgery, she was holding my left hand and he was holding my right hand,” Ms. Buchanan said. “When I think about it, it makes me want to cry.”

PLoS Medicine, January 2009, by Denise Grady — Six years ago, a relative of mine found out that she had rectal cancer and would need surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. She lives in a small town, and she consulted a local surgeon at a community hospital.

He was pleasant and kind, and clearly explained her condition and the operation he would perform. He was also painfully honest, and said that because the tumor was large, he doubted that he would be able to save the sphincter muscles that make bowel control possible. She would very likely need a colostomy, a procedure to divert wastes out through an opening cut in the abdomen, and would have to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life.

My relative thought it over. Being treated close to home had seemed so easy and convenient, and she dreaded the thought of shopping around for doctors when she was feeling sick, vulnerable and anxious. It was tempting to think that she would receive first-rate treatment no matter where she went.

But she also recognized that this was a small hospital, and a surgeon who probably spent more time fixing hernias and taking out gallbladders than he did operating on cancer patients. She decided that she wanted a doctor who operated on patients like her all the time, and that the two-hour trip to a cancer center would be worth the trouble.

And so it was: she found a surgeon who specialized in rectal cancer, and today she’s in good health, with no need for a bag. She might have done just as well with the local surgeon, but we both doubt it.

An article published online in October in the journal PLoS Medicine really hit home with me. Noting that the quality of cancer care is uneven, its authors argued that as part of the informed-consent process, doctors have an ethical obligation to tell patients if they are more likely to survive, be cured, live longer or avoid complications by going to Hospital A instead of Hospital B. And that obligation holds even if the doctor happens to work at Hospital B, and revealing the truth might mean patients will take their business someplace else.

“It’s only fair,” said Dr. Leonidas G. Koniaris, an author of the article and a cancer surgeon at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.

Studies have confirmed the common-sense notion that practice makes perfect, and the medical profession has known for at least 30 years that how well people fare after surgery often depends on where it was performed. For a given operation, outcomes are generally best at “high volume” hospitals, which perform it often. The difference between high- and low-volume centers is not just the surgeon’s skill, but also the level of expertise in other areas that are crucial after surgery, like nursing, intensive care, respiratory therapy and rehabilitation, Dr. Koniaris said. The same principles apply to treating cancer.

But patients are not often told during the informed-consent process that the results of cancer treatment can vary among hospitals, according to Dr. Koniaris and his co-author, Nadine Housri, a medical student.

“I think it’s sort of starting to happen but hasn’t really become a dialogue yet,” Dr. Koniaris said.

The strongest evidence that volume makes a difference comes from studies of surgery for pancreatic and esophageal cancer, but Dr. Koniaris said the experience of the surgeon and the whole medical team was important in any major cancer surgery.

He was not surprised to hear about my relative. He was an author of a study published in 2007 that found that people with rectal cancer survived longer and were more likely to have operations that saved the sphincter at teaching hospitals than at community ones — even though the university hospitals were more likely to take on difficult cases with large tumors. Another study in which he participated suggested that women with advanced breast cancer received more comprehensive therapy and survived somewhat longer when treated at teaching hospitals rather than at community ones.

Some medical experts say complicated treatments like surgery for cancer or heart problems should be regionalized — done strictly at specialized, high-volume centers, not at centers that don’t perform the operations often enough to become really good at them. But Dr. Koniaris and Ms. Housri suggested still another option.

“We brought up the idea that maybe it should just be up to the patient,” Dr. Koniaris said.

Studies have found that some people still prefer to be treated close to home even if the risks are higher there. Maybe they shouldn’t be forced to travel, especially if the difference is not large, Dr. Koniaris said.

Asked if he practiced what he preached, Dr. Koniaris said yes, that as a surgeon he sometimes sent patients to other doctors, especially for pancreatic cancer and liver tumors.

His article pointed out that in a few cases in the United States and Australia, courts have ruled that doctors who had operated on people with poor results should have informed the patients that more experienced surgeons were available.

PLoS Medicine framed the article by Dr. Koniaris and Ms. Housri as a debate, with two other researchers taking different views. Dr. Robert J. Weil, a neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, argued that although it might seem a good idea to inform patients of differences in outcomes among hospitals, there would be “a variety of hurdles.”

Which hospitals would be chosen for comparison? And as medicine advances and changes, Dr. Weil asked, “is it possible to compare hospitals or even recent time periods, especially when faced with disease courses that may extend over years?” He also suggested that if hospitals were forced to give patients comparative information, it might lead some to avoid difficult cases, to make their numbers look better. And he pointed out that patients might have no idea what to make of the information, because most people have a hard time gauging risk or understanding that statistics apply to a population but don’t predict the fate of an individual.

David I. Shalowitz, a bioethicist, said that expecting surgeons and hospitals to disclose information about other doctors and medical centers would create an untenable conflict of interest for them and should be avoided.

The question of what the doctor’s obligation is remains unresolved. People can ask doctors for comparative information, but many patients would fear giving offense. And judging by volume alone may have its pitfalls, because there are bound to be some hospitals that do lots of operations badly and some that perform few but do them well.

(For people who want to find out how a specific hospital performs in treating certain illnesses and performing operations, the government Web site www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov provides information. In addition, some states require that hospitals publish their infection rates; that information is at www.hospitalinfection.org.)

Some people will try to sort out whatever information they can obtain or, as my relative did, simply figure that the odds will be most in their favor if they can find their way to a doctor or surgeon who takes care of a lot of people who are a lot like them. For now, many patients facing tough decisions are pretty much on their own.

The Palm Pre is the first smartphone innovative enough to give the iPhone a run for its money. In fact, it leapfrogs the iPhone in a several key areas. The big question is whether Palm can deliver and if it has the chutzpah to take on the Apple juggernaut.

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TECHREPUBLIC.COM, January 19, 2009, by Jason Hiner — To the surprise of virtually everyone in the tech industry, Palm stole the show at CES 2009 with the announcement of its Palm Pre smartphone and the new Palm webOS that runs it.

Although Palm was originally one of the pioneers of the smartphone with its Treo a half-decade ago, it had recently been floundering as Research in Motion and Apple have overrun the smartphone market with BlackBerries and iPhones, respectively, and Nokia quietly established smartphone domination in Europe.

Palm’s biggest problem has been an outdated operating system, the Palm OS-the same OS that was running its PDAs in the 1990s. While Palm OS supported lots of legacy applications, it was slow, buggy, and simply not well suited for the types of applications needed in today’s mobile environment.

So Palm did the smartest thing it could: It blew up the whole thing and started from scratch. While a drastically-revamped Palm OS has been rumored for years, most tech industry observers expected a similar-looking platform that was powered by something new (like Linux) under the hood.

Instead, what Palm announced at CES was a fresh start based on the Palm webOS, a new platform architected on Web standards HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The great thing that Palm did with webOS was not try to compete with iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or Symbian. Instead, Palm thought about the way people currently use their smartphones and then tried to solve some of the nagging problems that no one else has fixed yet.

The result was surprisingly stunning. While the iPhone raised the user interface bar for smartphones so high that no one has previously even come close to nudging it, Palm’s new UI does virtually everything the iPhone can do and drops in several important new innovations of its own.

Palm chairman Jon Rubinstein, who helped develop the iMac and the iPod at Apple before leaving in 2006, clearly has his fingerprints all over the product development of Palm’s new webOS and especially the new Palm Pre, the first smartphone running the webOS. In fact, the Palm Pre demo at CES was so compelling that Palm’s stock shot up 35% as pundits proclaimed Palm’s resurrection and wondered aloud whether this was the iPhone’s first real competitor.

Let’s take a look at closer look at the Palm Pre and then consider whether it could potentially trump the iPhone. And even if Palm does have a hit in the making, is the company positioned to be able to challenge Apple, RIM, Google, and Nokia? That’s the final question we’ll consider.

Full specifications for Palm Pre

· Exclusive carrier at launch: Sprint
· Availability: First half of 2009
· Weighs 4.8 ounces
· Width: 2.3″ Height: 3.9″ Thickness: 0.67″
· Texas Instruments OMAP3430 processor
· 8 GB built-in storage (no SD expansion slot)
· 3.1-inch half-VGA touch screen with 320×480 resolution and 24-bit color
· Full slide-down QWERTY keyboard
· EVDO Rev. A
· 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
· GPS with turn-by-turn navigation
· 3.0 megapixel camera with LED flash
· Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and A2DP stereo support
· Laptop tethering via Bluetooth
· 3.5mm headphone jack
· Sensors for ambient light, proximity, and accelerometer
· Replaceable battery
· MicroUSB, USB 2.0, and USB mass storage support (looks like a drive when connected to a computer)
· Microsoft Outlook e-mail via Microsoft Direct Push Technology
· Support for POP3, IMAP, Gmail, Yahoo e-mail, AOL e-mail
· Support for IM, SMS, and MMS
· Media player with support for MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, QCELP, WAV, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264

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Photo of the Palm Pre with the keyboard closed. Photo credit: Palm

Can it trump the iPhone?

Based on the public and private demos of the Palm Pre that I’ve seen, it will match the iPhone in its two strongest areas: a user-friendly touch interface and highly-functional Web browsing on a smartphone. However, there are three areas where the Palm Pre could potentially have important advantages over the iPhone:

1. Multi-tasking: The Palm Pre offers what I consider to be the first fully functional multi-tasking in a smartphone. On most smartphones you can only effectively work in one application or window at a time and switching between apps is clunky. The Palm webOS introduces the “Cards” interface for quickly shuffling between apps. It’s made to look like you’re shuffling through a deck of cards. You push the center button on the Pre and your current app shrinks down to a card on the screen and the other open apps look like cards, too. You then swipe your finger to the left or the right to browse through the apps and tap on the one you want to open. So, for example, you can easily have one e-mail message open to read while writing a separate e-mail in which you want to quote from the first e-mail. Palm has also integrated IM and e-mail alerts along the bottom of the screen, so that you can get a quick preview of a message and click into it if it’s time-sensitive.

2. Multi-threaded messaging:
Palm recognized that a lot people use their smartphones for both business and personal use, and wanted to find ways to allow people to both segment business and work data while also providing opportunities to view some of that information in a more cohesive way. Thus, it created the unified inbox where you can see all of the e-mail accounts you have and drill down into a particular one. But you can also click the “All inboxes” view to see all of your messages from all of your accounts in chronological order. The same thing can be done for your calendars as well. It can also tie together your buddy lists and conversations from multiple IM clients. And for your contacts, it can pull information together on your contacts from multiple sources, including Exchange, Facebook, and other social media sites.

3. Hardware keyboard: I have previously admitted that the number one reason I don’t use an iPhone as my primary smartphone is because I can’t stand the on-screen keyboard. For any kind of regular intensive typing, most people find that the iPhone simply isn’t very usable. As a result, the fact that Palm has included a slide-down hardware keyboard in the Pre is quite significant. My only concern is that the Pre is a fairly slender device and so the QWERTY keyboard has small keys that look pretty cramped. It wasn’t a problem for me to type on, but my fingers are thinner than most.

There are also several small items in which the Palm Pre has an advantage over the iPhone: replaceable battery, copy-and-paste, laptop tethering, and a camera flash.

So where will the Palm Pre come up in short in comparison to the iPhone? Well, the iPhone is on AT&T’s GSM network and so it has much better international roaming capabilities than Sprint’s EVDO network, where the Pre will debut. So the iPhone will still be more attractive to international business travelers. The iPhone also has an established base of developers along with its App Store for successfully distributing third party applications. Because Palm is starting over with a new platform, it will also need to start over in building a new developer community. Although the fact that webOS apps use open Internet standards will help, it will still take time to mobilize a new developer ecosystem.

The other X factor is price. Palm did not announce how much the Pre will cost, but since this is a premium device the expectation is that it will fall within the $199-$399 range (with a two-year contract from Sprint). The challenge is that Palm needs to make money on the Pre, so it can’t price it too low. However, the 8 GB iPhone 3G costs $199 (the 16 GB costs $299) and the BlackBerry Bold costs $299. Those are the devices that the Pre will be competing directly against, so the price needs to be $299 or less and preferably $199 in order to compete head-to-head with the iPhone.

Will it matter?

Prior to CES, most of us in the press were simply waiting to hear the official death announcement for Palm. The company was losing market share in the burgeoning smartphone market, it had made a series of mistakes in recent years that had deteriorated its business and balance sheet, and it hadn’t had a hit product in years.

Of course, the Palm Pre and the webOS changed those perceptions overnight. Now, the big question is … if Palm really does have a breakthrough product on its hands, does it have the resources and the wherewithal to take on Apple, RIM, and Google (which joined the market in 2008)? Is it in the smartphone business for the long haul or is it looking for a buyer to quickly take advantage of its new hot commodity status?

At CES, Rubinstein talked like an executive with ambitious plans for the future. He said, “We’ve built our next generation platform which we’re going to evolve for the next 10 years. Pre is the first product that that platform is shipping on, but there are other products in the pipeline… The key is not to build just one great product. The key is to build a team that can make great products time and time again, and then put a roadmap in place that brings out a steady stream of great products… The team is extremely excited about the response we got this morning but we’ve got to go deliver the products and work on the next one.”

Rubinstein also mentioned plans to take the Pre to other carriers and continents. “This one is CDMA,” he said. “We do want to go around the rest of the world so there will be a 3G version that works in Europe and other places.”
The good news for Palm is that on December 22-just before CES-it got a $100 million cash infusion from Elevation Partners. That will give it the capital it needs to pursue its strategy with the webOS and the Palm Pre. But the company’s margin of error is very small. It can’t afford any more business mistakes like the Centro (which makes no money) or product mistakes like the Foleo (which never even made it to market).

And with the Pre, Palm has to deliver all of the features it has promised in a smartphone that has snappy performance, good battery life, and relatively few bugs. Oh, and the price needs to be competitive with the iPhone. But if Palm can pull off all of that, then look out, because at that point the Pre really would give the iPhone a run for its money.

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Palm debuts Palm Pre, WebOS platform

During the recently concluded CES in Las Vega, Palm finally unveiled their latest smartphone, the Palm Pre.

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Taking a new approach in designing this smartphone, the Palm Pre integrates a slide-out QWERTY keypad to complement its 3.1-inch touchscreen display which is not usually common in Palm devices. It likewise features a 3-megapixel camera with flash, HSDPA connectivity, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and EDR, proximity and light sensor, accelerometer, 8GB internal memory, and runs on their latest mobile operating system, the WebOS.

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Palm’s new OS is a huge improvement in terms of visual appeal when compared to their earlier applications, but the jury is still out as to how successful as a platform it will be especially when compared to the iPhone and Android. The WebOS makes use of CSS, XHTML and JavaScript making it compatible with a wide variety of applications, and will likewise be able to connect directly to an app store that Palm will be launching soon dubbed as the App Catalog.

Sadly though, only US residents will get a chance to own one during the early part of this year. The Palm Pre will become available sometime during the first half of 2009 exclusively on Sprint. A Palm Pre GSM version for other market is expected to be released once it makes its debut in the US. Hopefully, that will happen sooner than later because the last thing Palm needs is to follow in the footsteps of the XPERIA X1 and lose whatever interest and fan base it has gained during its announcement due to a delayed release.