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L.A.'s Palm Pre Launch Celebration

This past Wednesday night I had the special privilege to attend the Palm Pre launch celebration in Los Angeles. This was the hot ticket event that Palm and Sprint put together to celebrate what has clearly been a huge effort for all involved in the creation of Pre.

Several hundred people attended the farmer’s market-themed event at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Interspersed between grass huts of fresh produce, fresh bread and organic chocolate truffles, Palm had set up a handful of demo stations where visitors could play with the Pre in a completely unscripted, ad hoc manner while sipping a cocktail.

In addition to being a celebration, the event was also a big “thank you” to all of the partner organizations that contributed to the creation of the Pre. Palm and Sprint also used the farmer’s market setup as a fundraiser benefitting the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( -- kudos to them for sharing the spotlight on their special night with this important organization.

As the event started, the buzz among the attendees was the early positive press that the Pre was getting from Walt Mossberg, Engadget’s Josh Topolsky and other notable tech reviewers.

This was my first opportunity to get some real hands-on time with the Pre so I was eager to see whether the device and WebOS would satisfy my built-up expectations...and, for the most part, they did. Other than a few issues I had learning to properly use the gestures to access settings and flip between screens, the device and OS did live up to the hype we’re all hearing about. It’s worth noting that the Pre comes with a built-in tutorial that launches on the first-use that walks a user through all the gesture controls. Had I had a chance to run through to tutorial I doubt that I’d have had any problems at all.

Jerry Seinfeld headlined the evening’s entertainment and Jason Alexander was the master of ceremonies for the event. After a few words from Paul Rieckhoff, the Exec Dir of IAVA, Ed Colligan, Jon Rubinstein and Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, took the stage to thank all the contributors to the Pre and also to debut a new television commercial to air in the coming days.

The commercial is interestingly artistic and it fits well with a phrase that I heard used by Ed and Jon during their presentations: “The Zen of Palm”. Could this be a new tagline for the company? Zen is certainly the feeling they were going for with the creation of the Pre and the term does have a certain Apple-esque connotation when spoken in the context of a technology product. (In case you forgot, Steve Jobs is a notable Zen Buddhist and Jon R was one of the brains behind the iMac and iPod so there’s some Synergy between the two – sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.)

But, on to the entertainment...Jerry’s set killed. He was typical Jerry but with a bunch of new material targeted around the mobile market that kept the audience in stitches. I’ll spare you my attempt to recreate his humor in this column but one interesting revelation during his set was when Jerry exclaimed, “I’m not an iPhone fan.” Given the crowd, that’s probably a good thing to say even if some of the folks in that room worked on the original iPhone. After Jerry’s set, attendees made their way back out the auditorium to the farmers market to continue the evening’s festivities with good food, good wine and good conversation.

All evening long, the excitement in the air was palpable. All discussions about the device, the WebOS and their potential were very positive and optimistic. One got the sense that even with all the challenges in building this great new device, a lot of things have gone right for Palm. As we count down the hours to Saturday’s launch of the Pre, let’s hope that good things continue to happen for Palm and for the Pre.

I’ll see you in line.

Darren G. Austin leads product management for AOL's Mobile Messaging & Social Networks team.  Darren is also the founder and CEO of MagTown Tech, a Seattle-based producer of mobile applications. You can follow his updates at @DarrenGAustin.

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Reader Comments (1)

Sounds like the people had a good time at the party and it was good to benefit the veterans. I hope that Palm/Sprint succeed with their new device as it is truly a remarkable phone.

June 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNobel

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